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Good Question: Who Is ISIS?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, better known as ISIS, has already taken over several key cities.

This is a militant group that's so extreme that traditional Al Qaeda has disavowed it.

The ISIS jihadists move quickly and brutally.

Their ultimate goal is to establish an Islamic state across the region.

For years, we've heard of terror groups like Hamas and Al Qaeda. But in some parts of the world, and in a short amount of time, ISIS has accomplished much more.

ISIS was formed just a few years ago when it was cut off from the Al Qaeda network. Abu Bakr al Baghdadi is credited with creating the "Islamic State in Iraq and Syria," with a goal of establishing an Islamic "caliphate," or Islamic state, across Iraq and Syria. The group's recent uprising caught many off guard.

"And then it got pretty horrifying. These guys are pretty brutal," Andy Aoki, political science professor at Augsburg, said.

Aoki is a political science professor at Augsburg College. He said the group's success in forcing Iraqi forces out of the area should be taken seriously.

So should the ISIS penchant for violence.

The jihadists often document public floggings and executions of Christians, Yazidis, and other groups.

"It's rare to find a group like this that's not even embarrassed. Even the Nazis were denying some of the things they did. If you look at some of the most horrific killers the last 30 or 40 years, they've got to be in the top 5 so far," Aoki said.

But as ISIS grows, Aoki said it becomes more vulnerable. Expanding territory makes the group an easier target for U.S. airstrikes.

And U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters are offering resistance. Aoki believes comparing ISIS to Al Qaeda, is like comparing apples to oranges.

"Unlike Al Qaeda, they seem to be focused on gaining territory right there in Iraq and Syria," Aoki said.

Aoki said that Al Qaeda acted more like a traditional terrorist group by staying low-key and plotting 911, whereas, ISIS is more interested in acquiring land right now. They've already gained more land than Al Qaeda ever has.

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