Al Jazeera explores the origins and evolution of the world’s most feared and powerful insurgent group – ISIL.
For over three years, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group (ISIL, also known as ISIS) controlled and terrorised large swaths of northern Iraq.
Then, after it was militarily defeated and largely driven out by the Iraqi army and international forces in late 2017, local militias took over short term responsibility for law and order in some of the areas ISIL had relinquished.
They began searching for fugitives, meting out an uncompromising form of justice on captured enemy fighters and their alleged civilian collaborators who came into their hands.
One of the most reputedly vengeful of those militias operated in the strategically important Shirqat district, which lies between the cities of Tikrit and Mosul.
Unusually, its commander was a 40-year-old woman, Wahida Mohamed al-Jumaily, who’s also known as Um Hanadi. She and her 80-man force had played a key role in driving ISIL out of the area and had since shown their utter determination to keep it that way.
Both intrigued and disturbed by some of the stories about Wahida’s ferocity that were circulating on the internet, Dutch journalist Tom Kleijn went to meet her.