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IS Kills Dozens of Its Own in Hunt for Spies

IS Kills Dozens of Its Own in Hunt for SpiesIS Kills Dozens of Its Own in Hunt for Spies

In March, a senior commander with the self-styled Islamic State terrorist 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 militant, sparked a panicked hunt within the group’s ranks for spies who could have tipped off the US-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, AP reported.

Others have disappeared into prisons and still more have fled, fearing they could be next as the militant 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.

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 terrorist group.

Over the past months, American officials have said the US 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, 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 said.

Iraqi intelligence officials allowed 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.

  Why Information Leaked

Rami Abdurrahman, who heads 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.

“They have executed dozens of fighters on charges of giving information to the coalition or putting (GPS) chips in order for the aircraft to strike at a specific area,” said Abdurrahman, referring to IS in Syria.

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 terrorist group. “Now any IS commander has the right to kill a person whom they suspect is an informer for the coalition.”

Another Iraqi intelligence official said at least 10 IS fighters and security officials in Mosul were killed by the group in April on suspicion of giving information to the coalition because of various strikes in the city.

Mosul also saw one of the most brutal killings of suspected informants last month, when about a dozen fighters and civilians were drowned in a vat filled with acid, one senior Iraqi intelligence official said.

Non-IS members are also often caught up in the hunt for spies. In 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.

Financialtribune.com