DIBAGA CAMP, Iraq (AP) — As the Islamic State group loses ground in Iraq, the militants are showing strains in their rule over areas they still control, growing more brutal, killing deserters and relying on younger and younger recruits, according to residents who fled battleground territories.
The accounts point to the difficulties the extremist group faces as Iraqi forces, backed by the United States, prepare for an assault on Mosul, the largest city still in the militants' hands. For months, Iraqi troops, militias and Kurdish fighters have been clawing back territory town by town, making their way toward the northern city.
In the latest areas recaptured, Iraqi troops over the past month took a clump of villages near a key military base south of Mosul that they plan to use as a hub for the assault. Residents of the communities, which lie strung along bends in the Tigris River, say that in the preceding weeks, the militants ruling them had seemed to be scrambling to keep control.
In Qayara, which is the main town in the area and remains in IS hands, beheadings and extrajudicial killings that previously were occasional became commonplace in a hunt for spies and deserters, said Jarjis Muhammad Hajaj, who was among thousands of residents who fled fighting in the area and now live in the Dibaga Camp for displaced people in Kurdish-run territory.
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