Over the past few months, the Islamic State, an al-Qaeda offshoot formerly known as ISIS, has mounted a brutal campaign in Syria and Iraq that has allowed it to expand its ranks and win large swaths of new territory.
With the stated goal of establishing a Sunni caliphate — or an Islamic state governed by a religious figurehead — the insurgent group’s fighting has taken a heavy toll on Iraq’s Shiite Muslim majority, as well as a number of minority groups, including Kurds and Christians.
While reports of the Islamic State carrying out mass executions, placing heads on fence posts and imposing harsh religious restrictions have sparked concern across the world, they haven’t elicited military involvement until now.
Over the weekend, U.S. warplanes began bombing Islamist fighters following an announcement by President Barack Obama that he had authorized airstrikes to prevent “genocide.”
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