Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)

  • The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)—also referred to as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the Islamic State, or Daesh— split from al-Qa’ida in 2014 and established its self-proclaimed caliphate.
  • ISIS’s primary area of operations is Iraq and Syria, but the group has expanded and operates in 11 countries, with its strongest affiliates in Libya and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
  • Since 2015, ISIS has suffered setbacks, losing approximately 40 percent of its territory and 120 leaders, including second-in-command and head of external operations Abu Mohammad al-Adnani. ISIS revenues have also declined by approximately 30 percent, from $80 million a month to around $50 million. Moreover, according to US intelligence estimates, foreign fighter recruitment has decreased approximately 90 percent from 2014-15—from 2,000 fighters arriving in Iraq and Syria every month on average to about 50.

  • ISIS is capable of conducting operations outside Iraq and Syria. In 2015, ISIS-directed attacks in Paris and Brussels resulted in approximately 160 deaths.

Threat to New Jersey: Moderate

The terror threat from ISIS to New Jersey is moderate because of the group’s ability to attract and dispatch foreign fighters to and from Iraq and Syria, as well as to inspire individuals to plot and conduct attacks. Since 2015, ISIS supporters have issued several threats targeting law enforcement in New Jersey.

  • Since 2015, approximately 90 individuals have been arrested in the United States for providing material support to ISIS or plotting to conduct an attack; five resided in New Jersey. Nationally, ISIS sympathizers conducted three successful attacks in 2016, including one at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, where Omar Mateen killed 49 and injured 53.
  • Pro-ISIS hacktivist groups have released roughly 20 “kill lists” disclosing the personally identifiable information of over 60,000 US citizens, roughly 500 of which were New Jersey residents, including 55 New Jersey Transit police officers. In January 2015, in an anonymous online post, an ISIS supporter instructed sympathizers to “kill police officers and soldiers in the streets and public squares of New Jersey.”

US Nexus

  • Since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, approximately 270 Americans either traveled or attempted to travel to Iraq and Syria. In May 2016, the FBI Director stated that in the first half of 2015, six to 10 people a month traveled from the United States to join ISIS, but by late 2015 this estimate had dropped to one on average and the flow has remained at this level.
  • Since the onset of US-led coalition airstrikes in September 2014, ISIS has urged supporters to carry out attacks in the West, including New York, Washington, DC, Los Angeles, and Dearborn, Michigan. In November, ISIS mentioned the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York as an ideal target for a vehicle attack. The group also continues to encourage sympathizers to target law enforcement and military personnel.

Additional Resources

ISIS’s Strategy to Divide Muslims in the West

ISIS: Redefining Success to Compensate for Losses

For more information, please contact NJOHSP's Analysis Bureau at or 609-584-4000.