ISIS fugitives detail life in Mosul under terrifying extremist rule

CBS News/March 14, 2016

By Holly Williams

Near Mosul, Iraq -- It's close to midnight on the front line just outside Mosul, and Kurdish soldiers are hundreds of yards into no man's land. Someone is coming.

It's not ISIS fighters emerging from the darkness, but a man and a teenage girl.

The man strips to his underwear to be searched, guarded by the Kurdish soldiers, who fear he could be a suicide bomber.

But these people have risked death to escape ISIS, walking for miles through the night. They're finally allowed to cross through a trench and into safety. Then, one by one, come twelve more men. Some of them handing over guns.

It's an extraordinary sight, because very few people have managed to leave Mosul after ISIS began sealing it off -- stopping civilians from fleeing the city, and banning cell phones.

Overcome with relief, the men wanted to tell us why they fled, but begged us to hide their identities to protect family members still living in Mosul.

"These are torture marks," one man he said, showing scars on his back and arms. "They heated wire and used it to burn me."

His only crime was smoking, illegal under ISIS rule and its harsh interpretation of Islamic law.

Another man said he saw another Mosul resident beheaded after being caught with a cell phone sim card. One man told us three men were caught escaping recently, and ISIS hanged them in the street.

"They're a criminal gang," cried one man. "We've been surviving on water and bread."

"When they first came they were tough," said another. "But now they can see that Mosul is turning against them."

The men told us they plan to fight against ISIS themselves now that they're free. They also want and to smuggle their wives and children out of Mosul as soon as they can.

This was just one night on the front line. But what we heard suggests that people in Mosul are growing angry with ISIS, and that could make retaking the city a little bit easier when Iraqi forces eventually begin their offensive to recapture Mosul.

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