* Wife pushes husband in wheelchair in flight to safety
* Islamic State snipers target anyone who flees
* Young villagers questioned, fears of suicide bombers
Abbas Ali wept as his wife slowly pushed him in his wheelchair out of their village in northern Iraq, a risky escape along a route where Islamic State snipers three days earlier had shot dead a couple seeking freedom from their rule.
Flanked by their four children, they looked behind them to see if any jihadists were still around to carry out their threats of shooting anyone who tried to flee Islamic State's self-proclaimed caliphate.
Kurdish Peshmerga fighters stood on a berm, watching closely for any signs of suicide bombers, who sometimes pose as civilians. Two men behind them lifted their shirts to show they were not strapped with explosives.
"A nearby village held by Daesh was attacked. We heard the five remaining Daesh members in our village went to help their comrades there," said Ali as he was pushed along to a base held by Kurds that is often attacked at night by militants.
Daesh is the Arabic acronym used by opponents of Islamic State to describe the group. The hardline militants seized the northern city of Mosul two years ago, declared a caliphate and then grabbed villages like the one where Ali once worked as a trader.
Iraqi military forces and the Peshmerga fighters have seized dozens of villages as part of an offensive launched on Oct. 17 to clear Islamic State militants out of Mosul, their biggest stronghold.
People who live in the IS-occupied villages have been encouraged by those advances, which are backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes.
Still, they face a difficult decision -- do they risk death to take advantage of Iraqi forces momentum, or do they stay put?
The Sunni group has spread fear in towns and villages they control with a clear warning. Anyone who tries to escape will be shot dead. Another villager who escaped said someone who was caught was whipped 95 times.
"They get word around," Ali said. "But we could not take it anymore. Life was so difficult."
The Peshmerga will take the refugees to tented camps that have been set up by Iraqi authorities to deal with an expected flood of people fleeing from Islamic State's harsh rule.
LEAVE A COMMENT Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*
Russia begins partial withdrawal from Syria
Russia suspends diplomatic presence in Yemen
Iran's Revolutionary Guards offer support to Palestinians
Arab League calls for Palestinian state recognition
Fifth day of protests in Mideast over Trump’s move
Erdogan, Putin warn of further tension over US decision
Palestinians miss major reconciliation deadline
Istanbul massacre gunman refuses to testify as trial opens
Hezbollah's Nasrallah says group to focus on Israel