By Alice Martins
RAQQA, Syria — It took Ahmed Brazu and his family 20 terrifying hours to escape this ravaged city, the capital of the Islamic State’s imagined caliphate that has become an increasingly perilous battlefield.
The U.S.-backed forces closing in on the militant stronghold had urged fleeing civilians to avoid Islamic State positions. But those instructions proved useless; the family hid in a mosque, only to come under fire from the militants’ rocket-propelled grenades. The danger came from the city’s would-be liberators, too: Brazu’s brother and a niece were killed in a U.S.-led coalition airstrike a few days before he fled.