As the noose continues to tighten against the Islamic State, now that a military campaign has been launched against its capital Raqqa, ISIS has reportedly taken its gruesome acts to new highs. Following reports that ISIS is now capitalizing on the sex trade by selling sex slaves on FaceBook to refill its rapidly dwindling coffers, the Kurdish ARA News agency reports that ISIS publicly executed 19 Kurdish women of the Yezidi minority, who were burned alive in iron cages. Their crime: “they were punished for refusing to have sex with IS militants,” local media activist Abdullah al-Malla told ARA News.
As we reported yesterday, according to an Islamic Council made up of clerics and scholars, Pakistani husbands can now beat their wives if they refuse certain sexual requests, however once again ISIS takes religious “guidance” to whole new levels.
As RT adds citing the media source, hundreds of local residents witnessed the brutal execution, but could not do anything about it. IS, an Iraq, Syria and Libya-based terrorist group, adheres to what it believes to be a pure version of Islam. They justify their numerous crimes, including cruel forms of capital punishment, by the tenets of the religion even if said religion clearly prescribes otherwise. Sunni Muslims living in territories under their control are forced to live by IS rules or be expelled or killed. Ethnic and religious minorities are being harshly persecuted. The Yezidis, an ethnic group that has its own synthetic religion and are considered devil-worshipers by extremist Muslims, are among those suffering under IS.
Thousands of Kurdish women captured by IS fighters were forced to become sex slaves to the militants. Those who managed to escape or were freed said that the women are raped, traded around, often denied food or rest and otherwise mistreated. IS leadership produced manuals for their men on what they should and should not be doing to their captives.
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Meanwhile, in another attempt to root out not only deserters but also potential spies, AP reports of a vicious crackdown within the Islamic State on locals whom it suspects of being potential spies, killing dozens of its own fighters in a purge of potential traitors.
In March, a senior commander with the Islamic State group was driving through northern Syria on orders to lead militants in the fighting there when a drone blasted his vehicle to oblivion. The killing of Abu Hayjaa al-Tunsi, a Tunisian jihadi, sparked a panicked hunt within the group’s ranks for spies who could have tipped off the U.S-led coalition about his closely guarded movements. By the time it was over, the group would kill 38 of its own members on suspicion of acting as informants.
They were among dozens of IS members killed by their own leadership in recent months in a vicious purge after a string of airstrikes killed prominent figures. Others have disappeared into prisons and still more have fled, fearing they could be next as the jihadi group turns on itself in the hunt for moles, according to Syrian opposition activists, Kurdish militia commanders, several Iraqi intelligence officials and an informant for the Iraqi government who worked within IS ranks.
The fear of informants has fueled paranoia among the militants’ ranks. A mobile phone or internet connection can raise suspicions. As a warning to others, IS has displayed the bodies of some suspected spies in public — or used particularly gruesome methods, including reportedly dropping some into a vat of acid.
Are spies among ISIS’ ranks just more paranoia or actual fact? According to AP, IS “commanders don’t dare come from Iraq to Syria because they are being liquidated” by airstrikes, said Bebars al-Talawy, an opposition activist in Syria who monitors the jihadi group. Over the past months, American officials have said that the U.S. has killed a string of top commanders from the group, including its “minister of war” Omar al-Shishani, feared Iraqi militant Shaker Wuhayeb, also known as Abu Wahib, as well as a top finance official known by several names, including Haji Iman, Abu Alaa al-Afari or Abu Ali Al-Anbari.
In the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, the biggest city held by IS across its “caliphate” stretching across Syria and Iraq, a succession of militants who held the post of “wali,” or governor, in the province have died in airstrikes. As a result, those appointed to governor posts have asked not to be identified and they limit their movements, the Iraqi informant told The Associated Press. Iraqi intelligence officials allowed the AP to speak by phone with the informant, who spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing for his life.
The purge comes at a time when IS has lost ground in both Syria and Iraq. An Iraqi government offensive recaptured the western city of Ramadi from IS earlier this year, and another mission is underway to retake the nearby city of Fallujah.
It appears that the spies emerged among ISIS’ ranks in retaliation for the major wage cuts: the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said some IS fighters began feeding information to the coalition about targets and movements of the group’s officials because they needed money after the extremist group sharply reduced salaries in the wake of coalition and Russian airstrikes on IS-held oil facilities earlier this year. The damage and the loss of important IS-held supply routes into Turkey have reportedly hurt the group’s financing.
The militants have responded with methods of their own for rooting out spies, said the informant. For example, they have fed false information to a suspect member about the movements of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and if an airstrike follows on the alleged location, they know the suspect is a spy, he said. They stop fighters in the street and inspect their mobile phones, sometimes making the fighter call any unusual numbers in front of them to see who they are. After the killing of al-Anbari, seven or eight IS officials in Mosul were taken into custody and have since disappeared, their fates unknown, said the informant.
“Daesh is now concentrating on how to find informers because they have lost commanders that are hard to replace,” said a senior Iraqi intelligence official in Baghdad, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group. “Now any IS commander has the right to kill a person whom they suspect is an informer for the coalition.”
It has gotten to the point where ISIS is convinced all of its battlefield losses are due to spy treachery: after the Tunisian militant Abu Hayjaa was killed on the road outside Raqqa on March 30, IS leadership in Iraq sent Iraqi and Chechen security officials to investigate, according to Abdurrahman and al-Talawy, the Syria-based activist. Suspects were rounded up, taken to military bases around Raqqa, and the purge ensued. Within days, 21 IS fighters were killed, including a senior commander from North Africa, Abdurrahman said.
Dozens more were taken back to Iraq for further questioning. Of those, 17 were killed and 32 were expelled from the group but allowed to liv. Among those brought to Iraq was the group’s top security official for its Badiya “province,” covering a part of central and eastern Syria. His fate remains unknown.
The purge focuses not only on Islamic State fighters: non-IS members are also often caught up in the hunt for spies. In the Tabqa, near Raqqa, IS fighters brought a civilian, Abdul-Hadi Issa, into the main square before dozens of onlookers and announced he was accused of spying. A masked militant then stabbed him in the heart and, with the knife still stuck in the man’s chest, the fighter shot him in the head with a pistol. Issa’s body was hanged in the square with a large piece of paper on his chest proclaiming the crime and the punishment. IS circulated photos of the killing on social media.
According to al-Talawy, several other IS members were killed in the town of Sukhna near the central Syrian city of Palmyra on charges of giving information to the coalition about IS bases in the area as well as trying to locate places where al-Baghdadi might be.
Meanwhile, the paranoia among the population is spreading, with fears rising one may be executed for merely have a communication device. Sherfan Darwish, of the U.S.-backed Syria Democratic Forces, which has been spearheading the fight against IS in Syria, said there is panic in IS-held areas where the extremists have killed people simply for having telecommunications devices in their homes. “There is chaos. Some members and commanders are trying to flee,” Darwish said.
For now the propaganda war continues:
The U.S. -led coalition has sought to use its successes in targeting IS leaders to intimidate others. In late May, warplanes dropped leaflets over IS-held parts of Syria with the pictures of two senior militants killed previously in airstrikes. “What do these Daesh commanders have in common?” the leaflet read. “They were killed at the hands of the coalition.”
The jihadis have responded with their own propaganda. “America, do you think that victory comes by killing a commander or more?” IS spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani said in a May 21 audio message. “We will not be deterred by your campaigns and you will not be victorious.”
Ultimately the war against ISIS will be resolved not with spy purges but with the upcoming battle on the Islamic State’s capital of Raqqa which is fast approaching. And absent material reinforcements from “outside”, it will likely come down to the dramatic demoralization of the ISIS army coupled with the lack of funds from being unable to sell crude oil to Turkey, that is the decisive factor in the final battle.
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