Newsweek

ISIS Note Reveals Ruthless Orders Ahead of Mosul Battle

In a message to besieged ISIS fighters in former stronghold Manbij, a commander tells them not to come back alive.
An image grab taken from an AFP video dated August 12 shows a school that was used by ISIS fighters to manufacture explosives in the northern Syrian town of Manbij, almost a week after the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition of Arab and Kurd fighters, seized the group's stronghold.
ISIS school in Manbij Source: STR/AFP/Getty

Updated | The Islamic State militant group (ISIS) is as brutal in its private orders to its top commanders as it is in its public propaganda, according to a letter obtained by Newsweek, sent when the group was threatened in the northern Syrian city of Manbij in August.

As ISIS fighters struggled to keep control of Manbij against encroaching U.S.-backed Kurdish and Arab forces, an unnamed emir of the group’s War Committee in Raqqa, its de facto capital, dispatched a three-page, handwritten communique to the top ISIS commander in the city, Abu Yahya al-Shami. The letter ordered al-Shami to execute defecting fighters, quash dissent in its ranks and imprison “bewitched” militants—a message analysts say the ISIS leadership will communicate to its commanders in Mosul in the face of a U.S.-Iraqi offensive that began on Monday.

Sent on August 8, just four days before the Syrian Democratic Forces’ eventual liberation of Manbij—the

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