One of the most shocking developments in the Middle East has been the rapid rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria as a major international terrorist threat. A slew of reports surfacing from Iraq, Syria and bordering countries detail the grisly wake of ISIS forces, suggesting that mass executions, torture and other atrocities have been a common occurrence within the borders of the Islamic State.
While the growth of ISIS may appear sudden, the coming together of the group can be traced to the Iraqi invasion of 2003, which triggered a wave of anti-American sentiment that resulted in the birth of insurgency groups targeting Western forces and Iraqi ethnic groups. From these roots, ISIS has grown into a powerful, multinational terrorist organization with sophisticated operations capable of capturing and administrating large swaths of territory.
Despite the ubiquitous presence of ISIS in the news, relatively little information has been revealed, partially because of the secretive nature of ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, who is rarely photographed in public. What is known about ISIS, however, paints a disturbing picture of violent extremism.
10. ISIS Recruits Worldwide
As ISIS inflated their profile through the mainstream media over the past few years, the success of their recruiting efforts have also increased. In 2015, ISIS includes over 20,000 converts from around the world, including men and women from North America and Europe.
ISIS has managed to draw recruits from 90 different countries, with 3,400 people travelling from Western countries to fight in the Middle East. France and Russia count more than 1,200 recruits from within their borders, Germany and the United Kingdom have more than 600 each while at least 180 Americans and 130 Canadians have traveled overseas to join ISIS.
One of the most famous cases is Jihadi John from the United Kingdom, who has carried out several beheadings that have been recorded on video.