A pro-government Iraqi Shiite fighter holds an Islamic State group patch as he inspects a council building in the city of Baiji, north of Tikrit, in Salahaddin province on June 7. (Ahmad al-Rubaye/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

Exactly one year ago, the world learned about the militant group known today as the Islamic State. The group — which is also known as ISIS and ISIL — had been in existence for months when al-Qaeda cut ties with it. Apparently, the Islamist State was too extreme even for the masterminds of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The event that put the Islamic State on the map for many was the capture of the largest city in northern Iraq.

On June 10, 2014, Iraqi forces were run out of Mosul by the Islamic State in a surprise onslaught, forcing the world to face up to the potent threat posed by the group.

In January, six months before the attack on Mosul: At the time, the Islamic State was still a part of al-Qaeda in Syria and Iraq, and the group had major operations in Raqqa, Mosul and Ramadi.


A month later, the Islamic State was kicked out of Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria. After the separation, the Islamic State took control of the Syrian city of Raqqa and the Iraqi city of Fallujah. Raqqa became the group's de facto capital.

[Read full story: The Islamic State was dumped by al-Qaeda a year ago. Look where it is now.]

Six months later came the capture of Mosul. Although the Islamic State had already asserted control over Fallujah and some other cities in Iraq, it was the group's seizure of Mosul that really caused the world to take it seriously.

Mosul was not only one of Iraq's biggest cities but was also a "bigger and more important prize" than Fallujah, wrote The Post's Liz Sly, and it was "located at a strategically vital intersection on routes linking Iraq to Turkey and Syria."

The loss of Mosul also demonstrated the many weaknesses of Iraq's security forces and was a contributing factor to the downfall of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki following April 2014 parliamentary elections. Months after the city fell, Maliki stepped aside as the leader of Iraq.

This map, published last June, shows how sudden the rise of the Islamic State really was — the extremists had already captured a handful of cities east of Baghdad. By June, they had captured some major cities in the north, including Tikrit, the home town of Saddam Hussein.



In August came the "potential act of genocide" against the Yazidis.

The Islamic State's brutal campaign against a group called the Yazidis pushed the United States and others to intervene against the Islamic State.

As the extremists advanced farther north in Iraq, the Yazidis, a minority group that lived in the Sinjar region, were forced to flee their homes. Some Yazidis were killed, but others were stranded on Mount Sinjar, dying of hunger and thirst. On Aug. 7, President Obama called the situation a "potential act of genocide" and said the United States and its allies would intervene militarily in Iraq.


Here is a map and timeline of the U.S.-led airstrikes against the Islamic State:

August — October: After the Yazidi crisis, U.S.-led airstrikes hit Islamic State strongholds.
Although the airstrikes targeted major battlegrounds, they didn't stop the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq and Syria. According to an article published in October:

More than 1,000 foreign fighters are streaming into Syria each month, a rate that has so far been unchanged by airstrikes against the Islamic State and efforts by other countries to stem the flow of departures.



If you look closely, the U.S.-led airstrikes were heavily bombarding the Mosul Dam area. The aim was to combat a key Islamic State tactic: The group captures dams and water routes to cut off supplies to villages and "bolster their claim that they are building an actual state."

This map shows the dams the extremists controlled:



Today, the Islamic State no longer controls the Mosul Dam.

January: The Islamic State finally loses the Syrian border town of Kobane.
After four months of intense clashes, the key town along Syria's border with Turkey was taken by Kurdish forces.


The loss was seen as a major blow to the extremists as it closed a key entry point to Turkey. It also was a key win for U.S. and Arab forces as "nearly 75 percent of 954 strikes in Syria by U.S. and Arab warplanes since September — the vast majority of them by the United States — have targeted the area in and around Kobane."

February: The militants are in danger of losing a major supply route.

A route connecting the militants' two major cities — Raqqa and Mosul — was in danger of getting cut by coalition strikes.

It is still unclear whether Kurdish forces were able to seize parts of the route, but the fighting along the supply line continues.


The map below shows the route and the extent of the population controlled by the Islamic State.

March: The Islamic State loses Tikrit.


After months of battles, the extremists finally lost a major city after U.S.-led airstrikes and Iranian-backed militias launched an initiative to reclaim the town, about 110 miles northwest of Baghdad.
This was the "first time that Iraqi security forces have wrested back a major population center from the militant group, boosting hopes for an offensive targeting the larger city of Mosul." Although Mosul is still in the hands of the militants, Tikrit appears to be under the control of the Iraqi government.

May: The Islamic State's disturbingly successful week.

After the extremists faced a series of setbacks, they claimed complete control of Ramadi in Iraq and Palmyra in Syria, showing both the "Iraqi army's weaknesses and the militant group's growing power."



The Islamic State's growing caliphate

Despite continued clashes with opposition forces in Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State has increased its presence far beyond the region by affiliating with extremists in Libya, Boko Haram in Nigeria and factions in Saudi Arabia.

Although many groups have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, only a few have been accepted into its fold. The Islamic State is particular about whom to count as part of its network.


 

Read more:

The unbelievable damage Islamic State has done to ancient sites in Iraq and Syria
Map: The world according to the Islamic State