The offshoot from al-Qaeda swept across the northern region of Iraq during June without much opposition from the Iraqi army. Now it poses the biggest fight for stability for the country since Saddam Hussein fell in 2003.
After thousands of soldiers from the Iraqi army fled the offensive by the Islamic State, Kurdish fighters and Shi’ite militias have emerged as the most important lines of defense versus the militants who now threaten to march into Baghdad.
Kurdish forces sent in reinforcements, which included its special forces, to Zumar over the weekend to battle the Islamic State who arrived from three different directions in pickups that were mounted with weapons, said residents.
The militants then put up their black flag on buildings across the town, a ritual that previously has been followed by captured opponents being executed and violent imposition of its ideology that is even found excessive by al-Qaeda.
Later Sinjar, another town was also seized by the group. Witnesses there said the residents were required to flee after the Kurdish fighters put up little resistance versus the militants.
Islamic State stalled its drive toward Baghdad, stopping north of Samarra, which is only 62 miles from the capital.
The Islamic State took its new name recently after being referred to previously as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.
In parts of Syria and Iraq, the group had declared caliphate. To date the groups has seized four if Iraq’s oil fields, which are helping to fund operations.
The group wants to consolidate gains, set up sites in strategic towns close to oil fields and border crossings into Syria so it can move to and from and transport its supplies easily.
The group has been able to capitalize on the sectarian disenchantment and tensions with Nuri al-Maliki the Prime Minister who is a Shi’ite.