Politics, World, Middle East

‘Daesh fever’ plagues half of Arab world

Extremist group now has presence in half of Arab world’s 22 countries and threatens the other half

Yuksel Serdar Oguz   | 05.08.2015
‘Daesh fever’ plagues half of Arab world


More than a year after declaring a so-called Islamic State, Daesh have sought to use all means at its disposal to expand.

It now has a presence in half of the Arab world’s 22 countries and threatens the other half.

Anadolu Agency has compiled this list, laying out Daesh zones of influence, places that have come under its attack and countries that are still untouched by the group.

1) Countries where Daesh controls territory:


In Syria, Daesh almost entirely controls the governate of Raqqa in the north and Deir Ezzor in the east, in addition to parts of al-Hasakah governate in the northeast.

The group has also expanded into the countryside of Aleppo governate in the north and controls some parts of Homs governate in central Syria, including its historic city of Palmyra, and its neighboring governate Hama.

Daesh control extends to southern Syria right to the outskirts of the capital Damascus where the group recently took control of areas such as the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp and the Hajar al-Aswad district, only a few kilometers from the capital’s city center.

The group also has a limited presence in the al-Qalamoun region in the Damascene countryside on the border with Lebanon.


Daesh controls Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city and capital of the northwest Ninawah governate.

It is the largest city under the militant group’s control and represents its heartland.

Daesh also controls around 90 percent of al-Anbar governate, west Iraq, which makes up a third of the country’s total land area by itself and borders Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

The group also controls the areas linking the northern Kirkuk governate to Saladin governate and the capital, Baghdad, both located in central Iraq.


Sirte, a Mediterranean coastal city and birthplace of former President Muammar Gaddafi, is now entirely in the hands of Daesh.

The group fights mainly against Libyan Dawn and an armed revolutionary group that supports the Tripoli-based General National Congress.

In the east, Daesh has a limited presence on the outskirts of Derna, where they were pushed out of the city by the Derna Mujahideen Council, a coalition of militias.

The Libyan branch of Daesh is made up of former pro-Gadaffi militants and ex-Ansar al-Shariah militants, as well as Malian jihadists who fled their country after the French intervention there. Tunisian jihadists have also joined the Libyan branch of Daesh.

The group has launched a number of car bomb attacks on the capital Tripoli as well as the western city of Misrata.

2) Countries where Daesh has a presence but controls no territory:


The Sinai Peninsula-based jihadist group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, formed in August 2011, pledged allegiance to Daesh in 2014 and changed its name to Wilayet Sinai (Sinai Province).

Though is does not permanently control any areas in Egypt, the Sinai Peninsula is Wilayet Sinai’s base of operations.

The group claimed responsibility for blowing up pipelines that exported gas from Egypt to Israel in 2011, and also launched attacks on Israeli troops in September 2012.

Over the last two years, however, it has has targeted the Egyptian army, particularly after pledging allegiance to Daesh, which accuses the Egyptian army of apostasy.

One of its largest attacks was launched last month, when they targeted a number of Egyptian military checkpoints in northeast Sinai.

The attacks resulted in tens of deaths and injuries among the Egyptian army and police forces.


According to security sources, there is no organized Daesh presence in Lebanon, but there are small numbers of sympathizers in the mostly Sunni north of the country in Akkar and Tripoli.

These sympathizers share Daesh’s ideology but have not declared allegiance to the group.

Daesh’s presence is most strongly felt in Qarah, Jarjeer and Jubbah near the Lebanon-Syria border.

The Lebanese highlands are regarded as a Daesh military zone, with an estimated 700 fighters in the area.

Daesh activities inside Lebanon are limited to crossing the mountainous Syria-Lebanon border into the Lebanese city of Arsal to secure supplies; this has led to clashes with the Lebanese army.

The group has taken a number of Lebanese soldiers hostage since kidnapping them during clashes around Arsal in August, 2014.


Daesh does not control any regions in Algeria, but smaller jihadist groups comprised of former and dissident al-Qaeda members, such as Jund al-Khilafah and Wilayet al-Janzir, have pledged allegiance to the group.

Al-Murabitun, a group active in Mali, Niger and southeast Libya, oftentimes penetrates Algeria’s southern borders. A number of its fighters have also pledged allegiance to Daesh.

Al-Murabitun were previously most famous for their 2013 attack on an eastern Algerian gas plant, where 38 western hostages were killed after an Algerian army operation was carried out to rescue them.


Daesh does not control any territory inside the Gaza Strip, which is governed by Hamas.

There are a few pro-Daesh groups, such as Ansar al-Dawla al-Islamiya and the Omar Hadid Brigade, but they have no significant influence inside the besieged enclave.

3) Countries targeted by Daesh:


No Tunisian areas are under Daesh control, but a spattering of newly formed groups, such as Jund al-Khilafah in Tunisia and Talaii Jund al-Khilafah, have pledged allegiance to the group.

The Pardo Museum attack that killed 21 foreign tourists and a security guard in the capital on March 18, 2015, was claimed by Talaii Jund al-Khilafah.

Daesh-aligned Twitter accounts posted statements claiming Talaii Jund al-Khilafah were also behind the Sousse attack in June, 2015.

The attack, which took place on June 26, targeted the Imperial Marhaba Hotel in the coastal city of Sousse.

Official sources said 39 people were killed and many injured, including tourists from the U.K., Germany and Belgium as well as local Tunisians.


A suicide bomber blew himself up during Friday prayers on June 26, 2015, at the Shia al-Imam al-Sadiq Mosque in the capital, Kuwait City.

Twenty-seven people were killed in the attack, which Daesh claimed responsibility for – its first in Kuwait.

Authorities identified the suicide bomber as Saudi Arabian citizen Fahad Suleiman Abdulmohsen al-Gabbaa.

Kuwaiti Interior Minister Mohammed al-Khaled al-Hamad al-Sabah said they had captured the members of the militant cell behind the attack on the mosque without mentioning how many were detained.

Al-Sabah said that Kuwaiti security services are now targeting other militant cells.

Saudi Arabia

Though the group has no permanent presence in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the country has been targeted with the largest number of Daesh attacks among the Gulf countries.

The first Daesh attack on Saudi Arabian soil took place last November and targeted a Shia mosque. 

Daesh announced through a number of press releases that it was targeting security forces and foreigners in the capital Riyadh.

Saudi authorities announced recently that they were investigating and arresting members of cells linked to Daesh.

Riyadh, Shia majority Eastern Province, and Arar city near the northern border with Iraq are the Saudi Arabian areas most likely to be targeted by Daesh attacks.


Daesh claimed responsibility for a double attack on two mosques attended by supporters of the Shia Houthi group in the Yemeni capital Sanaa last March.

The attack, the first in Yemen to be claimed by Daesh, killed 120 people and injured hundreds of others.

Daesh then carried out several car bomb attacks targeting Houthi gatherings, mostly in Sanaa, resulting in deaths and injuries.

4) Countries free of any Daesh presence

Daesh has no presence in Jordan, Morocco, Mauritania, Sudan, Somalia, Comoros, Djibouti, Qatar, Oman, United Arab of Emirates and Bahrain, although authorities in some of these countries announced that they were investigating cells linked the group.

In some cases, authorities arrested individuals or groups accused of planning attacks for Daesh, attempting to travel to their so-called Islamic State or facilitate other citizens’ travel to Syria and Iraq to join the group.

Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.
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