Three families from Iraq who were trying to escape the areas controlled by the Islamic State have been burned to death by the terror group, a security source told an Iraqi news outlet on Saturday.
The families, which included children, were headed to central Kirkuk and areas in neighboring Salahuddin province, the source said, according to Iraqi News. ISIS caught them on a road between al-Riyadh and the Hamrin Mountains. They were accused of "abandoning the land of the caliphate," and they were submerged with tar before they were burned alive in front of a crowd.
"Daesh (Islamic State) militants have burned to death 15 civilians belonging to three families from al-Shajarah village in Hawija (55 km southwest Kirkuk)," the source said.
The militants threatened citizens in the area that they will suffer the same fate if they attempt to escape.
Since ISIS took over large parts of Iraq to establish the so-called "Islamic Caliphate," the group has tortured and executed hundreds of civilians for either violating its religious rules or trying to escape the regions under its control following the start of security operations seeking to liberate those areas.
Last month, a family of five was also burned to death for trying to flee toward Kirkuk. A mother and her four children were captured by the terror group on the road between al-Riyadh area and the Hamrin Mountains.
An anonymous source narrated that the militants tied up the mother and her four children and poured crude oil over them before they were set ablaze. They were burned in front of civilians who were on their way to the al-Alam area, east of Salahuddin.
ISIS has maintained control over most of western Mosul and Kirkuk's Hawija. A senior Iraqi politician has warned that Mosul itself will be destroyed in the battle to liberate it from the terror group.
"I think west Mosul will be destroyed," said Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurdish leader who served as the Iraqi finance minister in the past.
He said that ISIS will fight to the last man in the areas under its control, and he noted that the terror group was able to put up such stiff resistance through the use of networks of tunnels, sniper teams and suicide bombers in large numbers.
While no date has been set to resume the Iraqi government offensive to recapture west Mosul, Zebari expects the fighting to be even tougher than the previous military operations.