By PAUL JOHNSON-BASSEM, Associated PressThe Islamic State is gaining ground in Syria and Iraqis have seen their country overrun by the extremist group.
But it has also taken control over territory across the Middle East, with the group’s self-styled caliphate extending to parts of Iraq and Syria.
Here are the key developments: IS is now expanding its control over Syria and the two main provinces of Raqqa and Deir al-ZorThe Islamic States declared an Islamic caliphate in Iraq and in parts of Syria last year, making it the largest group in the region, eclipsing other jihadist groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIS.
In Iraq, the group declared its first caliphate in the country’s north, taking over swathes including Kirkuk and Anbar provinces.
The self-proclaimed caliphate has become so powerful that it now has control of the vast majority of Iraq’s territory, including a third of the country.
Its control is particularly pronounced in Deir el-Zour province, which lies in the heart of the Sunni heartland of Iraq.
Deir ez-Zur is the heartland where many Arabs fled from the Islamic States’ rule after the group overran large parts of northern Iraq in 2014.
IS now controls much of northern and western Syria.
IS has now expanded its control of parts of eastern Syria, taking control of territory in both Iraq and northern Syria.
In addition, IS has seized control of large swathes near the Turkish border, which borders the group in Iraq.IS has also expanded its self-declared caliphate in Syria, capturing a third city in the province of Raqqa.
Its self-described caliphate includes large swatches of land, from the Iraqi city of Mosul to the Syrian city of Raqqa, and in addition to the territory under its control, it also has control over the Kurdish city of Afrin.
Kurdish forces, backed by U.S.-led air strikes, have been fighting to retake the town from IS.
IS controls much more territory in Iraq than in Syria but the group is now being backed by the U.N.-backed Democratic Union Party (PYD), which has been battling against IS in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance.
IS is also holding territory in the northern Iraqi province of Nineveh, a key Iraqi province where it controls large parts.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Monday that IS fighters had taken control in Mosul, where he called on Iraqis to defend their homes against the group.
Iraq’s government is seeking to hold on to the city of Baghdad after the country fell to IS in June 2014.
Its forces have retaken Mosul, which was recaptured by the Iraqi army in June 2017, but the battle there has yet to be finished.
IS also holds parts of Raqqa province in Syria.
The group has been pushing to extend its selfdeclared control over Raqqa and is now in control of at least part of the city, as well as a large area around it.
IS seized control over a portion of Raqqa in October 2017, and it has since captured large parts in Iraq, including Tikrit, Fallujah and the Kurdish town of Kobani.
IS fighters in the Kurdistan region are now fighting to take back the city from Kurdish forces.
IS’ control over parts of northeastern Syria is weakening.
The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war, said that IS was retreating from some of the areas it once held.
IS was also able to expand its territory in northern Iraq and was now controlling some areas in western Syria, the Observatory said.
IS holds large swathe of land in Syria as well.
Its fighters control most of the territory along the Turkey-Syria border, including areas around Damascus, the Syrian capital.
IS control of Raqqa has also reduced the ability of Syrian government forces to stop the group from gaining ground, a U.A.E.-brokered ceasefire deal with the Syrian government in February 2018 called for an end to IS’ rule in Syria by the end of 2019.
However, IS’ gains in Syria have forced the U