ISIS vs ISIL - what's the difference?

(NEWS CENTER) -- "ISIS" has been dominating media headlines. But government officials are saying "ISIL." What's the difference?

The two acronyms refer to the same group. ISIS stands for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria because the group's territory straddles the border between the two counties. ISIL stands for Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. The Levant is the historic name given to the entire region east of the Mediterranean from Egypt, east to Iran and to Turkey. U.S. officials use ISIL instead of ISIS to emphasize the group's goal to expand its influence beyond the borders of Syria and Iraq.

The group began as a splinter from the terrorist group al Qaeda. The goal of ISIS is to create an Islamic state in Middle Eastern and African countries. President Obama authorized airstrikes against ISIS at the beginning of August to protect areas ISIS is trying to take over. Shortly after the first airstrikes, the group executed American journalist James Foley. They also executed American journalist Steven Sotloff.

Interesting fact: the town of Levant just outside of Bangor, Maine was named for the Middle Eastern region back in 1813.


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