A senior ISIS commander obliterated by a drone while driving in northern Syria in March sparked a vicious purge within the group's ranks of suspected spies who could have tipped off the US-led coalition, reports the AP. Some 38 of ISIS' own were executed as informants, among dozens of ISIS members killed by their own leadership in recent months after a string of airstrikes killed prominent figures. Others have disappeared into prisons and still more have fled, fearing they could be next, according to Syrian opposition activists, Kurdish militia commanders, Iraqi intel officials, and an Iraqi informant. As a warning to others, ISIS has displayed the bodies of suspected spies in public—or used particularly gruesome methods, including reportedly dropping some into a vat of acid. ISIS "commanders don't dare come from Iraq to Syria because they are being liquidated" by airstrikes, says a Syrian activist.
In Mosul, the biggest city held by ISIS, a succession of militants who held the post of "wali," or governor, have died in airstrikes. As a result, successors have asked not to be identified and they limit their movements, per the Iraqi informant. The purge comes as ISIS has lost ground in Syria and Iraq, and a Syrian Observatory for Human Rights rep said some fighters began feeding information to the coalition because they needed money after ISIS sharply cut salaries in the wake of airstrikes on ISIS-held oil facilities. The militants have begun feeding false information to suspect members, and stopping fighters in the street and inspect their cell phones. "(They have lost commanders that are hard to replace," said a senior Iraqi intel official. Another Iraqi intel official said at least 10 IS fighters and security officials in Mosul were killed in April because of various strikes. After a Tunisian militant was killed outside Raqqa on March 30, 21 ISIS fighters were killed within days. "There is chaos. Some members and commanders are trying to flee," says a rep for the US-backed Syria Democratic Forces. (Read more ISIS stories.)