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Former election candidates are being hunted down, arrested and publicly executed by ISIS militants in Iraq, according to security officials and local residents.
The victims include two women who were shot in the head in Mosul this week after standing for office earlier in the year.
They were targeted because ISIS saw their candidacy as tantamount to supporting the Baghdad government, according to a senior security official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"ISIS fighters do not care if those candidates are Sunnis or Christians or Shiites," the source said. "Since this person was trying to be a part of the government, he or she is a target. They do not care if this person is a female, all are considered as targets. They have no respect for mankind at all."
One resident of Mosul, who has knowledge of the incident but asked not to be identified for their own safety, identified the women as Ibtisam Ali Jaber, a candidate of Al-Wataniyah (The National Alliance), and Niran Ghazi Jirjis, a candidate of Al-Arabiyah (The Arab List).
"I won't be a loyal to such barbarians"
The resident said both women were detained for 45 days by the Sunni extremist group and executed after orders from its Islamic court. The senior security source said five other former candidates, all male, were detained by ISIS in September. Three of these people were publicly executed and the whereabouts of the other two are unknown.
One former candidate told NBC News that he was hiding at a relative’s house and was planning to escape from Mosul. He said that he feared ISIS would "take me, then execute me in a public square as they always do." Seven other candidates were killed by "unknown armed groups" in Mosul before April's elections, he said.
The ex-candidate added: "ISIS fighters killed so many innocent Iraqis from Mosul. I could be loyal to them and save myself, but this is against all of the principles that I believe in. I won't be a loyal to such barbarians. ISIS fighters are turning our lives into hell day after day."
Zena Nuri Abed, another female candidate who ran in the recent Iraqi parliament election, was also killed in Mosul on Sept. 7.
ISIS has overrun huge areas of Iraq and Syria. The executions of the political candidates are the latest in a spiral of violence that United Nations says has seen thousands of civilians killed in Iraq alone. The Islamists' bloody campaign has also included the high-profile beheadings of several Westerners, filmed by the group and posted online.
Residents in Mosul and the other ISIS stronghold city of Raqqa have reported the extremist group is imposing harsh laws banning smoking and heavy taxes on education. Raffaello Pantucci, an expert based at London's Royal United Services Institute think tank, said that executing political candidates was another sign of attempts by ISIS to portray itself as a fully functioning state.
"The narrative ISIS is trying to advance is, 'We're building something here,'" said Pantucci. "These displays of authority and strength is the group attempting to show that they are building a state."
But Pantucci warned against crediting the extremists with any real sort of coherent governance in Raqqa and Mosul. "It is easy to get carried away looking at all this and thinking ISIS has a well-run state with laws, schools and hospitals," he said. "My sense is it's far more haphazard than that."