“Credible” reports of IS deserters being executed by their own side are coming out of northern Iraq, either for trying to flee altogether or retreat to Syria where IS has a stronger grip on power.
IS is not breaking up but the reports point to growing tension within it in the face of more than 1,500 coalition air strikes in Iraq since last summer, including about 230 by RAF Tornados and Reaper drones.
The MoD says Britain is second only to the US for air strikes on IS in Iraq and has hit strongholds, checkpoints and vehicles, as well as gathering intelligence.
Other coalition members have been pounding targets in Syria.
This helped turn the tide in the IS siege of Kobane, the Syrian town on the Turkish border, now retaken by Kurdish forces.
Three weeks ago Iraq, backed by coalition air strikes, claimed to have recaptured Saddam Hussein’s birthplace Tikrit, which had fallen, like Mosul, during the rampaging advance of IS last year.
Some IS recruits are thought to have become disillusioned at the toll wreaked by coalition planes or by the brutality of IS towards its prisoners.
One western source said: “There are lots of credible reports of executions by IS of their own deserters in northern Iraq.
“There have been reports from Mosul and Sinjar near the Syrian border.
“It is not clear whether the deserters were trying to quit IS or flee to Syria.”
Those executed are thought to include three Chinese Muslim militants earlier this year, plus 100 foreign fighters suspected of trying to desert before Christmas in the IS Syrian HQ city of Raqqa.
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