Among the global terrorist groups, Islamic State and Al Qaida stands as one of the dangerous jihadist groups with deep roots in Syria and Iraq.
Islamic State was formed in April 2013 under it former name Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. Islamic State was an offshoot of the Al Qaida in Iraq (AQI).
Islamic State has been disavowed by Al Qaida; the militant has become the face of terror with thousands of fighters including foreign jihadists waging their campaigns in Syria and Iraq.
Islamic State is headed by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He is believed to be born in Samarra, north of Baghdad in 1971 and joined insurgency that erupted due US-led invasion in 2003.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2010 emerged as the leader of Al Qaida in Iraq, one of groups that later became ISIS.
ANALYSIS: INTER-REBEL TENSION
Islamic State militant group has been working independently of other jihadist groups in Syria. Nusra Front is the official Al Qaida affiliate in Syria; together with other rebels they had always had a tense relationship with Islamic State.
Baghdadi had sought to merge with al-Nusra Front but the militant outfit rejected the deal, since then the two groups have operated separately.
On the hand Zawahiri had once urged IS to focus on Iraq and leave Syria to al-Nusra, but Baghdadi and his fighters openly defied the Al Qaida chief.
Hostility to Islamic State grew steadily in Syria as regularly attacked fellow rebels and abused civilian supporters of the Syrian opposition.
In January 2014, rebels from both Western-backed and Islamist groups launched an offensive against Islamic State, the intention was to drive its predominantly foreign fighters out of Syria and maybe weaken the terror group.
SUMMARY & FORECAST
Tables are turning as the focus by US-led coalitions is fully turned on defeating the Islamic State; this appears to be giving new life to the group’s chief rival.
According to U.S. intelligence officials, despite hitting a low point about 10 months ago, Al Qaida affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra has rebounded casting itself a critical player in battle for Syria’s future.
Last year June 2014, Jabhat al-Nusra abandoned it stronghold in Deir ez Zor rather than confront the Islamic State in battle only that the outfit did not fade away but only took time to reunite different factions in their efforts to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Nusra Front leaders focused on setting up a new, but smaller base of operations, choosing Idlib province in western Syria.
Nusra has vastly increased its superior weapons arsenal through illegal trade routes as well as through battle spoils, capturing of TOW anti-tank missiles from defeated U.S.-backed rebel units.
Nusra is regarded as a highly effective and necessary ally for a majority of Syrian rebel groups in their fight thus the outfit is equally attracting foreign fighters to Syria and Iraq and it numbers is growing.
As Islamic State gets weaker in the Levant, perhaps the biggest beneficiary is the Al Qaida’s affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra Front which probably is counting on weakening of the Islamic State and maybe take on the insurgency mantle.