(2:36 p.m. ET) After further discussion and very welcome feedback:
"Splinter" isn't working for us either. AQ is claiming that ISIS never was one its affiliates. So it's problematic to say that ISIS has split from AQ.
If we don't like "inspired" and we don't like "splinter," what do we do?
First, consider whether there's even any need to mention AQ. It's very possible no reference is necessary.
Second, if AQ needs to be mentioned it's likely going to be about how AQ has denied any ties to ISIS or to say that both organizations are on the State Department's list of "foreign terrorist organizations."
Third, simply describe ISIS for what it said to be: a group of Sunni "militants" or "extremists" or "radicals" or "fighters" that wants to create "an Islamic empire, or caliphate, across the Middle East."
(12:56 p.m. ET) After discussion with the foreign desk:
Please don't refer to ISIS as an "al-Qaida inspired" group. That makes it sound to many of us as if ISIS and al-Qaida are still connected.
If you feel you need to mention them together, a better way to refer to ISIS may be as "an al-Qaida splinter group." That gets at the notion that they once were linked or at least in agreement, but are no longer.
Suggestions for even better alternatives are welcome.