ISIS Tightens Grip on Conquered Land, Fleeing Iraqis Say

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KALAK, Iraq - Iraqis among the hundreds of thousands fleeing territory overrun by al Qaeda-linked militants said the group was consolidating its hold on power Monday in areas it had seized.

Mosul residents waiting in the blazing heat to enter the Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region said the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham -- also known as the ISIS or ISIL -- was forcing local vendors to reduce prices for basic foods and gas.

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ISIS have removed many checkpoints in and around Mosul making people move more freely than when the Iraqi army controlled the city, fleeing residents said. One told NBC News by telephone that women in Mosul were only allowed to only appear in public fully veiled.

The group seemed to be working on winning hearts and minds of some local communities. One resident said the latest bout of violence Iraq was experiencing was an "uprising and revolution" against a decade of sectarian and Iranian-led rule.

An ISIS member in conquered Mosul told NBC News that the group planned on "liberating Baghdad."

Sunni militants captured a key northern town early on Monday, a blow to the country's Shiite-led government a week after it lost swathes of territory to the insurgents.

Tal Afar, with a population of some 200,000 people, was taken just before dawn, Mayor Abdulal Abdoul told The Associated Press.

The town's ethnic mix of mostly ethnic Shiite and Sunni Turkomen raises the specter of atrocities by the Sunni militants.

On Sunday, aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush and two other U.S. Navy ships arrived in the Persian Gulf. The amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde — which carries Osprey combat helicopters - was sent on Monday.