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Database: Identifiers of Designated Islamic Terrorist Organizations
Designated as terrorist by: Australia, Canada, European Union, United Kingdom, United Nations, United States
Base of operations: Syria, Iraq
Originating as an al-Qaeda-affiliated group in Iraqi Kurdistan from the days of Saddam Hussein's regime, Ansar al-Islam was largely defeated in the course of the U.S. invasion in 2003 and evolved to become Ansar al-Sunna ("Supporters of the Sunna") outside the Iraqi Kurdistan area, eventually becoming Jamaat Ansar al-Islam ("Group of Supporters of Islam") by 2007, being a primarily ethnic Arab group. While aspiring to the establishment of a caliphate, the group has been at odds with the Islamic State because it does not accept the Islamic State's claims to be an actual state/caliphate, a dispute going back to the days of the Islamic State's prior incarnation of "Islamic State in/of Iraq." This has sparked clashes, most notably in Kirkuk and Mosul. The organization also has a deployment in Syria under the name of Ansar al-Sham ("Supporters of the Levant"), where it works closely with Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic Front. However, in keeping with its non-al-Qaeda affiliation, the group's Syria contingent came out in support of the Jabhat Ansar al-Din coalition, even though it has not formally joined.
On 25 August 2014, leaders of Ansar al-Islam's Iraq branch representing a majority of the group put out a statement affirming allegiance to the Islamic State. This was rejected by the small minority who controlled the official Twitter account. However, it is clear that the Iraq branch has effectively disappeared as some 90% reportedly joined the Islamic State while the remainder disbanded Ansar al-Islam in Iraq. The Syrian branch still survives, having participated in the rebel gains against the Assad regime in Idlib province in spring 2015.
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