Following the recent leak of an attack to be conducted in April or May on the ISIS-held town of Tikrit in Iraq, the Iraqi army launched a military operation in an effort to recapture the town. This third attempt to regain control of Tikrit was conducted without providing any advance notice to the United States. Some suggest that this reveals ongoing tensions between Iraq and the U.S. over how to battle ISIS. While U.S. warplanes were sitting out this attack, Iran and its allied Shiite militias played a prominent role.
However, U.S.-led airstrikes continue in other parts of Iraq and in Syria, and some reports claim that cracks are appearing within ISIS in Iraq – notably between foreign fighters and local tribesmen. In the meantime, ISIS has lost over twenty villages in Syria following uncoordinated offensives by both Syrian and Kurdish forces, but one of the last moderate U.S.-backed Syrian rebel groups has disbanded, their members folding into a larger Islamist insurgent alliance distrusted by the U.S.
Recent footage of ISIS extremists destroying ancient art in a Museum in Mosul, Iraq, including statues from the UNESCO world heritage site Hatra, has horrified the global art community. On a more positive note, ISIS has freed nineteen of its Christian hostages earlier this week. The conflict’s brutal impact on religious minorities is leading an increasing number of American Christians to join the fight against ISIS.
In a troubling imitation of the Islamic State’s propaganda hallmarks, Boko Haram posted a video purporting to show the beheading of two men accused of being spies. The footage has raised concerns that the militant group is expanding its scope and seeking inspiration from ISIS. Although Boko Haram has not officially pledged allegiance to ISIS, experts fear this new development suggests they are trying to incorporate themselves into the self-proclaimed Islamic State.