Los Angeles Times

One family's tale of life under Islamic State: 'We were living in a big prison'

AIN ISSA, Syria - When the end came, it was deafening. Fighter jets thundered overhead, rockets and artillery exploded, and buildings crumbled under the onslaught.

Abed Shaban and a dozen relatives and neighbors squeezed into a ground-floor bathroom, the only room with a concrete ceiling in the building where they sought refuge from the battle for control of Islamic State's self-styled capital, Raqqa. Some prayed and read passages from the Quran. Others cried out as the earth shook and clouds of dust swirled around them.

For nearly four years, they had endured Islamic State's crushing rules and gothic violence. But as the militants put up a final stand against a U.S.-backed alliance of Syrian militias, Shaban wondered if any of them would make it out alive.

Raqqa, a once bustling agricultural hub on the northern banks of the Euphrates River, now lies in ruins, its entire population displaced across Syria and beyond. "Now there is only the

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