'Fear and paranoia driving IS militants to new depths of brutality'

In Urfa in Turkey Syrian refugees say "fear and paranoia" are driving militants in Raqqa to new depths of brutality Credit: ITV News

Video report by ITV News Security Editor Rohit Kachroo.

I’ve travelled to Urfa in Turkey, for centuries a pilgrim town - today, a far greater draw for refugees. One hundred miles from Raqqa, the de facto capital of the so-called Islamic State, I have come to hear first-hand accounts of the changing nature of IS rule, from those forced to live under it.

Human shields

There is an ever familiar process, which begins with a knock on the door from an ISIS fighter. He will order the people living inside to move out, or clear their spare room to make way for a militant.

Increasingly, militants in Raqqa are resorting to the use of human shields, according to several people who have fled the city. Over the last few months, many have moved out of the old state buildings to blend into the community and perhaps dodge drone detection.

Nineteen-year-old Abu Baraa told me:

Abu Baraa left Raqqa a few weeks ago. He says he had tired of seeing decapitated heads as he looked out of his home - and of witnessing public executions, including one carried out by British militant Mohammed Emwazi last summer.


I am told that there have been significant increases in taxes during the last few months - and that many “extortionate parking fines” have been introduced.

This revelation is more than a simple observation about local governance - because how IS funds itself remains one of its great mysteries.

Unlike groups such as al-Qeada, it is not thought to be reliant on foreign sponsors. According to one US government estimate, the group is able to raise around $40million per month through taxes, and a similar amount from the sale of oil.

It is estimated that so-called Islamic State raises as much as $40million per month through taxes Credit: ITV News

Increasingly, coalition airstrikes have been targeting the oil trade. It would be surprising if that hadn't forced the jihadists to try to raise more funds from the shrinking civilian population. Under IS, death and taxes continue to be life’s only certainties.

The violence is getting worse

One refugee told me that the militants in Raqqa allowed her to leave because she needed treatment for ovarian cancer. The pain of her illness was relief from the pain of life under IS, she said.

But don't take this as a sign of growing compassion from the jihadists.

The refugees that I spoke to were consistent: fear and paranoia were driving the militants towards new depths of brutality.

One woman told me how she witnessed a woman scorn her 13-year-old son in a shop. After she threatened to kill him in the heat of the argument, an IS militant followed her to ensure that she did just that.