The Islamic State terrorist organization has burned alive nine civilians, including children, who were caught attempting to flee the group's stronghold in Iraq, sources have told an Iraqi news outlet.
According to Iraqi News, a security source informed the Iraqi satellite media outlet Alsumaria News that IS (also known as ISIS, ISIL and Deash) militants executed nine Iraqis, some of whom were children, after they fled from the IS-controlled town of Hawija, a crime that the jihadi death cult considers to be a capital offense.
The report explains that the victims were charged with "abandoning the land of the Caliphate," a charge commonly issued to those executed for fleeing from IS' territory.
According to the source, the civilians were thought to be fleeing Hawija and headed for the neighboring Salahuddin province.
"Daesh (IS) arrested the civilians at a road between al-Riyadh and Hamreen Mountains," the source was quoted as saying. "They burned them before other civilians on their way to al-Alam."
The news of the atrocity comes as others in the Kirkuk province have also been killed by IS for fleeing the group's strongholds.
Last month, it was reported that three families who were caught fleeing from IS in Kirkuk were discovered by militants, detained and taken to Hawija, where they were covered in tar and burned alive.
In January, it was reported that IS militants burned alive an Iraqi mother and her four children after they were caught trying to flee from Kirkuk. That family was also discovered on the road between al-Riyadh and Hamreen Mountains. The four children were reportedly three girls and a 9-month-old baby boy. The family was tied up, while militants poured oil on their bodies and then lit their bodies on fire.
Although IS militants in its once largest Iraqi stronghold of Mosul continue to lose ground to the Iraqi-led coalition's efforts to liberate Iraq's second largest city, the group still has a very good grip on the city of Hawija, which lies about 35 miles south of the city of Kirkuk.
Earlier this week, Iraqi News reported that the group beheaded three civilians in the town, who were arrested three months ago, based on accusations that they collaborated with anti-IS security personnel.
Although much of the efforts to combat IS are in Mosul and Raqqa, Syria, there is a plan to launch an offensive to liberate Hawija. According to the Kurdish news site Rudaw, over 1,200 Sunni tribal fighters have been trained by the Iraqi government to take part in the effort to push IS out of the town.
"Certainly these [fighters] are all from Kirkuk, are citizens of Kirkuk, and they come from the tribes of Kirkuk," Ismail Hadidi, deputy head of the Sunni Arab Political Council in Kirkuk, told Rudaw. "They have knowledge of the area, and now they would like to take part in the liberation alongside the [Iraqi] army and the Peshmerga."
Residents in Kirkuk have been frustrated by the fact that the Iraqi government bypassed the liberation of Hawija and focused on the liberation of Mosul, which began lost October.
"There is disagreement between Erbil and Baghdad over the future of these disputed areas after the demise of ISIS, with Erbil apparently insisting on keeping the area under Peshmerga control and Baghdad wanting to bring it back under the federal government by pushing the Peshmerga forces back to where they were before ISIS," Iraqi journalist Arif Qurbany wrote in October. "By postponing the Hawija operation, the Iraqi government wants to impose the participation of the Shiite militia in the liberation of ISIS-held areas and giving the militia legitimacy in governing them after they are freed."
The U.S. Department of Defense announced Thursday a number of strikes that were carried out as a part of Operation Inherent Resolve. One of the strikes took place in Kirkuk and targeted an ISIS tactical unit.