ISIS fighters calling in sick?

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Top ISIS Commander Killed

It's been a tough week for the Islamic State group. First, one of its top leaders was killed in a coalition airstrike. Now reports have surfaced that its fighters are literally calling in sick over fears they might die.

Islamic State group militants near the Iraqi town of al-Shirqat, roughly 75 miles south of the key extremist stronghold of Mosul, are filing fake "sick notices" trying to convince their commanders they're suffering from incurable diseases, according to reports from Shiite militias fighting there, also known as the Popular Mobilization Units or PMUs. Low morale and a lack of faith in their commanders have prompted these fighters to do anything they can go get out of assignments to the crumbling front lines, the militia members say.

The news was first reported by Iranian news service Fars, run by the central government in Iran, which backs most of the PMUs. In this case the reports align with what others have observed on the ground. Deserters from al-Shirqat have reportedly been boiled alive by the group both as punishment and a threat to others considering similar actions.

Iraq's oldest cemetery growing quickly due to ISIS war:

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Iraq's oldest cemetery growing quickly due to ISIS war
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Iraq's oldest cemetery growing quickly due to ISIS war
The Wadi al-Salam cemetery, Arabic for "Peace Valley", is seen in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq August 3, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani 
Tombs are seen at the Wadi al-Salam cemetery, Arabic for "Peace Valley", in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq, August 3, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani 
Decayed dome is seen at the Wadi al-Salam cemetery, Arabic for "Peace Valley", in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq, August 10, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani 
Mourners carry the coffin of their relative during a funeral in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq July 26, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani 
A boy digs a grave at the Wadi al-Salam cemetery, Arabic for "Peace Valley", in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq July 27, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani 
Men bury a body at the Wadi al-Salam cemetery, Arabic for "Peace Valley", in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq July 27, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani 
A woman holds containers which are used for washing the graves at the Wadi al-Salam cemetery, Arabic for "Peace Valley", in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq July 28, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
People visit graves of their relative at the Wadi al-Salam cemetery, Arabic for "Peace Valley", in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq August 5, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani 
A man holds empty containers that are used for washing graves at the Wadi al-Salam cemetery, Arabic for "Peace Valley", in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq August 10, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani 
An undertaker smokes shisha at the Wadi al-Salam cemetery, Arabic for "Peace Valley", in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq August 3, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani 
A woman prays inside the shrine of Imam Mahdi at the Wadi al-Salam cemetery, Arabic for "Peace Valley", in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq August 1, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani 
A municipality worker pulls a trash container at the Wadi al-Salam cemetery, Arabic for "Peace Valley", in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq August 5, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani 
A woman takes a selfie inside the shrine of Imam Mahdi at the Wadi al-Salam cemetery, Arabic for "Peace Valley", in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq August 1, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
People line up to collect blessed water inside the shrine of Imam Mahdi at the Wadi al-Salam cemetery, Arabic for "Peace Valley", in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq August 1, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
A woman washes the grave of her relative at the Wadi al-Salam cemetery, Arabic for "Peace Valley", in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq August 5, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani 
A woman is seen at the Wadi al-Salam cemetery, Arabic for "Peace Valley", in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq August 1, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani 
Residents visit the graves of their relatives at the Wadi al-Salam cemetery, Arabic for "Peace Valley", in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq July 27, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani 
A man mourns on the grave of his relative at the Wadi al-Salam cemetery, Arabic for "Peace Valley", in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq July 27, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani 
A man prays inside the shrine of Imam Mahdi at the Wadi al-Salam cemetery, Arabic for "Peace Valley", in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq August 1, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani 
A man reads verses from the Koran at the grave of his relative at the Wadi al-Salam cemetery, Arabic for "Peace Valley", in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq July 28, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani 
Tombs are seen at the Wadi al-Salam cemetery, Arabic for "Peace Valley", in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq August 10, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani 
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U.S. officials say that they, too, have tracked steady rates of militants deserting or defecting from the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

"We've seen that our momentum is making the bad guys act in ways that show disorganization, desperation and poor morale," says Air Force Col. John Thomas, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, which oversees all conflicts in the Middle East. "Young recruits are now running things in areas where more experienced ISIL leaders have left, for instance. We see headquarters literally moving underground. And we see skittishness and a fear by ISIL combatants of airstrikes on their positions at any moment – they are running around scared."

Central Command has also observed more of what Thomas calls "open defiance" against the Islamic State group by civilians still under its control, such as smoking in public or lashing out at its soldiers – both strictly forbidden by the organization's strict rules.

"There are clear signs of pockets of civilians forming a resistance and organizing to sabotage ISIL efforts. These are citizens who are sick of the oppression and sadistic behaviors of the Islamic State thugs running their towns and cities," Thomas says.

Remarkable Kurdish women in militias fighting against ISIS:

15 PHOTOS
Remarkable Kurdish women in militias fighting against ISIS
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Remarkable Kurdish women in militias fighting against ISIS
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY DELIL SOULEIMAN - Syriac Christian Lucia, member of the battalion called the 'Female Protection Forces of the Land Between the Two Rivers' fighting the Islamic State group, plays with a dog during a training on December 1, 2015 at their camp in the town of al-Qahtaniyah, near the Syrian-Turkish border (aka Kabre Hyore in Syriac, and Tirbespi in Kurdish). The 50 graduates that counts the battalion are following in the footsteps of Syria's other main female force battling the jihadists -- the women of the YPJ, the female counterpart to the Kurdish People's Protection Units or YPG. AFP PHOTO / DELIL SOULEIMAN / AFP / DELIL SOULEIMAN (Photo credit should read DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY DELIL SOULEIMAN - Syriac Christian Lucia, member of the battalion called the 'Female Protection Forces of the Land Between the Two Rivers' fighting the Islamic State group, poses during a training on December 1, 2015 at their camp in the town of al-Qahtaniyah, near the Syrian-Turkish border (aka Kabre Hyore in Syriac, and Tirbespi in Kurdish). The 50 graduates that counts the battalion are following in the footsteps of Syria's other main female force battling the jihadists -- the women of the YPJ, the female counterpart to the Kurdish People's Protection Units or YPG. AFP PHOTO / DELIL SOULEIMAN / AFP / DELIL SOULEIMAN (Photo credit should read DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY DELIL SOULEIMAN - Syriac Christian Ormia, member of the battalion called the 'Female Protection Forces of the Land Between the Two Rivers' fighting the Islamic State group, loads her weapon during a training on December 1, 2015 at their camp in the town of al-Qahtaniyah, near the Syrian-Turkish border (aka Kabre Hyore in Syriac, and Tirbespi in Kurdish). The 50 graduates that counts the battalion are following in the footsteps of Syria's other main female force battling the jihadists -- the women of the YPJ, the female counterpart to the Kurdish People's Protection Units or YPG. AFP PHOTO / DELIL SOULEIMAN / AFP / DELIL SOULEIMAN (Photo credit should read DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY DELIL SOULEIMAN - A Syriac Christian fighter, member of the battalion called the 'Female Protection Forces of the Land Between the Two Rivers' fighting the Islamic State group, poses during a training on December 1, 2015 at their camp in the town of al-Qahtaniyah, near the Syrian-Turkish border (aka Kabre Hyore in Syriac, and Tirbespi in Kurdish). The 50 graduates that counts the battalion are following in the footsteps of Syria's other main female force battling the jihadists -- the women of the YPJ, the female counterpart to the Kurdish People's Protection Units or YPG. AFP PHOTO / DELIL SOULEIMAN / AFP / DELIL SOULEIMAN (Photo credit should read DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY DELIL SOULEIMAN - Syriac Christian women, members of the battalion called the 'Female Protection Forces of the Land Between the Two Rivers' fighting the Islamic State group, sit talking during a training on December 1, 2015 at their camp in the town of al-Qahtaniyah, near the Syrian-Turkish border (aka Kabre Hyore in Syriac, and Tirbespi in Kurdish). The 50 graduates that counts the battalion are following in the footsteps of Syria's other main female force battling the jihadists -- the women of the YPJ, the female counterpart to the Kurdish People's Protection Units or YPG. AFP PHOTO / DELIL SOULEIMAN / AFP / DELIL SOULEIMAN (Photo credit should read DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY DELIL SOULEIMAN - A Syriac Christian woman, members of the battalion called the 'Female Protection Forces of the Land Between the Two Rivers' fighting the Islamic State group, takes part in a training on December 1, 2015 at their camp in the town of al-Qahtaniyah, near the Syrian-Turkish border (aka Kabre Hyore in Syriac, and Tirbespi in Kurdish). The 50 graduates that counts the battalion are following in the footsteps of Syria's other main female force battling the jihadists -- the women of the YPJ, the female counterpart to the Kurdish People's Protection Units or YPG. AFP PHOTO / DELIL SOULEIMAN / AFP / DELIL SOULEIMAN (Photo credit should read DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY DELIL SOULEIMAN - Syriac Christian women, members of the battalion called the 'Female Protection Forces of the Land Between the Two Rivers' fighting the Islamic State group, take part in a training on December 1, 2015 at their camp in the town of al-Qahtaniyah, near the Syrian-Turkish border (aka Kabre Hyore in Syriac, and Tirbespi in Kurdish). The 50 graduates that counts the battalion are following in the footsteps of Syria's other main female force battling the jihadists -- the women of the YPJ, the female counterpart to the Kurdish People's Protection Units or YPG. AFP PHOTO / DELIL SOULEIMAN / AFP / DELIL SOULEIMAN (Photo credit should read DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY DELIL SOULEIMAN - Syriac Christian women, members of the battalion called the 'Female Protection Forces of the Land Between the Two Rivers' fighting the Islamic State group, take part in a training on December 1, 2015 at their camp in the town of al-Qahtaniyah, near the Syrian-Turkish border (aka Kabre Hyore in Syriac, and Tirbespi in Kurdish). The 50 graduates that counts the battalion are following in the footsteps of Syria's other main female force battling the jihadists -- the women of the YPJ, the female counterpart to the Kurdish People's Protection Units or YPG. AFP PHOTO / DELIL SOULEIMAN / AFP / DELIL SOULEIMAN (Photo credit should read DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY DELIL SOULEIMAN - Syriac Christian women, members of the battalion called the 'Female Protection Forces of the Land Between the Two Rivers' fighting the Islamic State group, have lunch on December 1, 2015 at their camp in the town of al-Qahtaniyah, near the Syrian-Turkish border (aka Kabre Hyore in Syriac, and Tirbespi in Kurdish). The 50 graduates that counts the battalion are following in the footsteps of Syria's other main female force battling the jihadists -- the women of the YPJ, the female counterpart to the Kurdish People's Protection Units or YPG. AFP PHOTO / DELIL SOULEIMAN / AFP / DELIL SOULEIMAN (Photo credit should read DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY DELIL SOULEIMAN - Syriac Christian women, members of the battalion called the 'Female Protection Forces of the Land Between the Two Rivers' fighting the Islamic State group, take part in a training on December 1, 2015 at their camp in the town of al-Qahtaniyah, near the Syrian-Turkish border (aka Kabre Hyore in Syriac, and Tirbespi in Kurdish). The 50 graduates that counts the battalion are following in the footsteps of Syria's other main female force battling the jihadists -- the women of the YPJ, the female counterpart to the Kurdish People's Protection Units or YPG. AFP PHOTO / DELIL SOULEIMAN / AFP / DELIL SOULEIMAN (Photo credit should read DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Young Syrian-Kurdish women take part in a training session organized by the Kurdish Women's Defense Units (YPJ) on August 28, 2013, in the northern Syrian border village of al Qamishli, to prepare them to defend their villages if they come under attack. AFP PHOTO/BENJAMIN HILLER (Photo credit should read BENJAMIN HILLER/AFP/Getty Images)
A fighter of the Kurdish of the Kurdish Women's Defense Units (YPJ) sits on sand bags as she holds a position on the front line on October 19, 2013 in the Kurdish town of Derik (aka al-Malikiyah in Arabic), in the northeastern Hasakeh governorate on the border with Turkey and Iraq. Kurdish fighters from several villages in oil-rich Hasake province are engaged in combat against Al-Qaeda affiliated groups the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Al-Nusra Front, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. AFP PHOTO FABIO BUCCIARELLI (Photo credit should read FABIO BUCCIARELLI/AFP/Getty Images)
A Young Syrian-Kurdish woman hides under hay during a training session organized by the Kurdish Women's Defense Units (YPJ) on August 28, 2013, in the northern Syrian border village of al Qamishli, to prepare them to defend their villages if they come under attack. AFP PHOTO/BENJAMIN HILLER (Photo credit should read BENJAMIN HILLER/AFP/Getty Images)
Young Syrian-Kurdish women take part in a training session organized by the Kurdish Women's Defense Units (YPJ) on August 28, 2013, in the northern Syrian border village of al Qamishli, to prepare them to defend their villages if they come under attack. AFP PHOTO/BENJAMIN HILLER (Photo credit should read BENJAMIN HILLER/AFP/Getty Images)
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The U.S. general who oversees all operations in the Middle East said this week that recent gains by coalition forces – which include the PMUs – have caused some Islamic State group fighters to push back against their marching orders.

"Some of what we saw in the Manbij fight was direction from [Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi] to his fighters to fight to the death," Central Command chief Army Gen. Joseph Votel said at a press conference at the Pentagon this week, referring to the operation that liberated the Syrian border city. "Obviously, they didn't."

The reports of Islamic State group fighters filing formal sick notices also offers another notable insight into the bureaucracy the extremist network has established, as it continues to convince those it rules that it is a legitimate state. Its leaders have begun issuing passports and birth certificates, minting its own currency and establishing news services.

The longer this bureaucracy exists the more difficult the Islamic State group will be to defeat. Multiple columnists used the U.S. announcement it had killed the extremist leader Abu Mohammed al-Adnani as further evidence of a failed strategy, saying the Islamic State group's established network allows for a replacement to step into al-Adnani's place eagerly.

Copyright 2016 U.S. News & World Report

NOW SEE: What Falluja looks like after years of ISIS occupation:

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What Falluja looks like after years of ISIS occupation
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What Falluja looks like after years of ISIS occupation
A view is seen of streets in Falluja after government forces recaptured the city from Islamic State militants, Iraq, June 27, 2016. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
A view of streets in Falluja, Iraq, June 26, 2016. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
Destroyed buildings from clashes are seen on the outskirt of Falluja, Iraq, June 20, 2016. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
Damaged buildings are seen from clashes in Falluja, Iraq, after government forces recaptured the city from Islamic State militants, June 30, 2016. REUTERS/Ahmed Saad
Damaged mosque is seen in Falluja, Iraq, after government forces recaptured the city from Islamic State militants, June 30, 2016. REUTERS/Ahmed Saad
A view of a street in Falluja, Iraq, after government forces recaptured the city from Islamic State militants, June 30, 2016. REUTERS/Ahmed Saad
Members of Iraqi government forces celebrate on a street in Falluja after government forces recaptured the city from Islamic State militants, Iraq, June 27, 2016. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
A member of Iraqi counterterrorism forces walks with his weapon in Falluja, Iraq, June 26, 2016. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
A member of the Iraqi counterterrorism forces stands by an Islamic State militants weapons factory in Falluja, Iraq, June 23, 2016. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A member of the Iraqi security forces looks at explosives abandoned by Islamic State militants at a school in Falluja, Iraq, June 25, 2016. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
Rocket-propelled grenades left behind by Islamic State militants are seen at a school, following clashes in Falluja, Iraq, June 25, 2016. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
A book belonging to Islamic State militants is seen in Falluja after government forces recaptured the city from Islamic State militants, Iraq, June 27, 2016. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
Burnt out prison cells belonging to Islamic State militants are seen in Falluja after government forces recaptured the city from Islamic State militants, Iraq, June 27, 2016. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A burnt out prison cell belonging to Islamic State militants is seen in Falluja after government forces recaptured the city from Islamic State militants, Iraq, June 27, 2016. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
Members of the Shi'ite Badr Organisation inspect a factory abandoned by Islamic State militants, in Falluja, Iraq, June 25, 2016. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
A member of the Iraqi security forces tears up a signboard of the Islamic State militants in Falluja, Iraq, after government forces recaptured the city from Islamic State militants, June 30, 2016. REUTERS/Ahmed Saad TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Iraqi counterterrorism forces pose for a picture in Falluja, Iraq, June 26, 2016. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A fighter from the Iraqi Shi'ite Badr Organization holds his rifle in an underground tunnel built by Islamic State fighters on the outskirts of Falluja, Iraq, May 28, 2016. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
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