Islamic State (Isis) has reportedly executed more than three dozen of its own jihadis after they downed weapons and escaped during a battle against Kurdish Peshmerga forces. Local news sources claim that 35 to 45 militants were buried alive as punishment for their 'cowardice' in the face of conflict.

An unnamed provincial source told AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA) that the terrorists buried 35 fellow extremists alive on the outskirts of Qayyarah after they were accused of running away from the attack on pro-government Iraqi forces in Bashir, a village south of the Iraqi city of Kirkuk.

However, the number of jihadists who were killed has been the subject of some debate. While one source mentioned 35, Iraqi media activist Munzer Ismail told ARA News that the number was larger. "At least 45 jihadists were buried alive for escaping the battlefront southern Kirkuk," Ismail reported, citing eyewitnesses from Qayyarah.

Isis suffered severe losses in terms of manpower and equipment during the clash. Kurdish Peshmerga forces were able to liberate the village of Bashir.

This is believed to be the first time the militant group has executed its own soldiers by burying them alive. Kurdish journalist Bawer Khalil said: "This mass execution of jihadists indicates that Isis is now suffering mounting disputes from within."

Isis has been carrying out numerous executions of deserters and treason. As many as 35 members were accused of conspiracy and killed by firing squad at the Ghazlani military camp near Mosul on 28 February. More recently on 8 May, two Islamists were executed in Mosul on charges of treason and a day later dozens more were shot dead in the village of al-Hadar.