The Islamic State group erupted from the chaos of Syria and Iraq's conflicts and swiftly did what no Islamic militant group had done before, conquering a giant stretch of territory and declaring itself a "caliphate."
Its territorial rule, which at its height in 2014 stretched across nearly a third of both Syria and Iraq, ended in March with a last stand by several hundred of its militants at a tiny Syrian village on the banks of the Euphrates near the border with Iraq.
But the militants have maintained a presence in both countries, and their shadowy leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had continued releasing messages urging them to keep up the fight. U.S. officials said late Saturday that he was the target of an American raid in Syria and may have died in an explosion.
Here are the key moments in the rise and fall of the Islamic State group:
- April 2013 — Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of al-Qaida's branch in Iraq, announces the merger of his group with al-Qaida's franchise in Syria, forming the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.
- January 2014 — Al-Baghdadi's forces overrun the city of Fallujah in Iraq's western Anbar province and parts of the nearby provincial capital of Ramadi. In Syria, they seize sole control of the city of Raqqa after driving out rival Syrian rebel factions, and it becomes their de facto capital.
- February 2014 — Al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri disavows al-Baghdadi after the Iraqi militant ignores his demands that IS leave Syria.
- June 2014 — IS captures Mosul, Iraqi's second-largest city, and pushes south as Iraqi forces crumble, eventually capturing Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit and reaching the outskirts of Baghdad. When they threaten Shiite holy sites, Iraq's top Shiite cleric issues a call to arms, and masses of volunteers, largely backed and armed by Iran, join militias.
- June 29, 2014 — The group renames itself the Islamic State and declares the establishment of a self-styled "caliphate," a traditional model of Islamic rule, in its territories in Iraq and Syria. Al-Baghdadi is declared the caliph.
- July 4, 2014 — Al-Baghdadi makes his first public appearance, delivering a Friday sermon in Mosul's historic al-Nuri Mosque. He urges Muslims around the world to swear allegiance to the caliphate and obey him as its leader.
- August 8, 2014— IS captures the town of Sinjar west of Mosul and begins a systematic slaughter of the tiny Yazidi religious community. Women and girls are kidnapped as sex slaves; hundreds remain missing to this day.
- Aug. 8, 2014 — The U.S. launches its campaign of airstrikes against IS in Iraq.
- January 2015 — Iraqi Kurdish fighters, backed by U.S.-led airstrikes, drive IS out of several towns north of Mosul. In Syria, Kurdish fighters backed by U.S. airstrikes repel an IS onslaught on the town of Kobani on the border with Turkey, the first significant defeat for IS.
- April 1, 2015 — U.S.-backed Iraqi forces retake Tikrit, their first major victory against IS.
- May 20, 2015 — IS captures the ancient Syrian town of Palmyra, where the extremists later destroy archaeological treasures.
- February 9, 2016 — Iraqi forces recapture Ramadi after months of fighting and at enormous cost, with thousands of buildings destroyed. Almost the entire population fled the city.
- October 17, 2016 — Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announces the start of the operation to liberate Mosul.
- January 24, 2016 — Al-Abadi announces eastern Mosul has been "fully liberated."
- May 10, 2016 — SDF captures the strategic Tabqa dam after weeks of battles and a major airlift operation that brought SDF fighters and their U.S. advisers to the area. The fall of the dam facilitated the push on Raqqa, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) away.
- Aug 23, 2018 — IS leader al-Baghdadi resurfaces in his first purported audio recording in almost a year; he urges followers to "persevere" and continue fighting.
- March 23, 2019 — SDF declares the complete capture of Baghouz and the end of the Islamic State group's territorial "caliphate."
- October 27, 2019 — The White House says President Donald Trump plans to make a "major announcement" after U.S. officials say al-Baghdadi was the target of an American raid in Syria's northwestern Idlib province. The officials say confirmation of his death in an explosion is pending.