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.

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