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Islamic State has reportedly buried dozens of its own militants alive, after the jihadists refused to fight and fled the battlefield in the face of the Iraqi government’s push to retake ground in northern province of Nineveh, which has been ruled by the terrorists since 2014.

The overall number of militants who have been executed remains ambiguous. AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA) is reporting that 35 fighters were killed, while Iraqi News is reporting that Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) buried 45 of its members alive on charges of fleeing the battlefield.

The executions took place on the outskirts of Qayyarah, about 35 miles (60 kilometers) south of the militant-held city of Mosul, an anonymous provincial source told ABNA. According to reports, those who were buried alive were accused of fleeing clashes with government forces in the village of Bashir, just south of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

Another source confirmed the slaying to IraqiNews.com, saying that“ISIS had buried its members, who escaped from al-Bashir battles, inside one grave.”

According to Arabic language media, on Monday ISIS command also shot and killed dozens of its fighters in the village of al-Hadar south of Mosul – likewise for escaping from battle in Anbar province.

The murder of ISIS fighters by its own command seems to show an increased morale deterioration within its ranks as desertions become widespread. The hardline group currently suffers from a shortage of manpower and financial resources due to the intensified airstrikes and ground attacks by anti-terror forces in both Iraq and Syria.

READ MORE: ISIS increasingly relies on child jihadists amid mass losses and desertion (VIDEO)

Iraqi and Kurdish forces backed by the US-led coalition against IS launched the offensive in Ninevehin province in March in an attempt to recapture jihadist-controlled Mosul which the militants have held since 2014. Over the past few months, the coalition’s airstrikes have killed a number of top ISIS commanders across Iraq, while the Iraqi forces and Kurdish militia are now within a 50 km range of Mosul.

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