Iraqi Kurds un­cover mass graves in Sin­jar

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

IRBIL, Iraq: Kur­dish forces said yes­ter­day they un­cov­ered two mass graves out­side Sin­jar, a north­ern Iraqi town near the Syr­ian border that was ruled by the Is­lamic State group for more than a year be­fore the ex­trem­ists were driven out last week. The first grave un­cov­ered was west of the town’s cen­ter near the tech­ni­cal in­sti­tute and con­tained 78 el­derly women’s bod­ies, the Sin­jar di­rec­tor of in­tel­li­gence, Qasim Samir, told AP. The sec­ond grave was un­cov­ered about 15 km west of Sin­jar and con­tained be­tween 50 and 60 bod­ies of men, women and chil­dren, he said.

More pre­cise in­for­ma­tion from the sec­ond grave is un­avail­able at the mo­ment, Samir ex­plained, be­cause the sur­round­ing area is thought to be rigged with home­made bombs, pre­vent­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion teams from reach­ing it. The Is­lamic State group cap­tured Sin­jar dur­ing its ram­page across north­ern Iraq in the sum­mer of 2014 and killed and cap­tured thou­sands of mem­bers of the Yazidi re­li­gious mi­nor­ity, in­clud­ing women forced into sex­ual slav­ery. Kur­dish forces backed by US-led airstrikes pushed the ex­trem­ist group out of the town in a two-day op­er­a­tion last week. “Th­ese peo­ple (in the mass graves) were shot and buried dur­ing the Daesh in­va­sion last year,” Samir said, us­ing an Ara­bic acro­nym for IS. Sin­jar was taken by IS mil­i­tants in Aug 2014 fol­low­ing the ear­lier fall of Mo­sul. Dur­ing the same ter­ri­to­rial push, IS ad­vanced on Er­bil, prompt­ing the be­gin­ning of a US-led cam­paign of airstrikes against the group, first in Iraq and later in Syria. A se­cu­rity of­fi­cial with the Kur­dish mili­tia forces known as pesh­merga also con­firmed the dis­cov­ery of the mass graves. “This is not a sur­prise,” the of­fi­cial ex­plained, re­quest­ing anonymity be­cause he was not au­tho­rized to brief the me­dia on the mat­ter. “In other ar­eas that have been taken back, we have found sim­i­lar mass graves.”

In the nearby town of Snuny, the Pesh­merga un­cov­ered 7 mass graves af­ter re­tak­ing the ter­ri­tory ear­lier this year, the pesh­merga of­fi­cial said. Nawaf Ashur, a res­i­dent of Sin­jar who was forced to flee with his fam­ily in Au­gust last year, said the news of the mass graves has jarred the Yazidi com­mu­nity. “Ev­ery­one who was miss­ing a fam­ily mem­ber was hop­ing that they were still out there, that they are still alive and maybe they’ll come back,” he said. Thou­sands of Yezidis re­main un­ac­counted for more than a year af­ter IS took a num­ber of ma­jor­ity Yezidi towns in Iraq’s north.

While hun­dreds of Yezidi women and girls have been re­leased or es­caped IS cap­tiv­ity, hu­man rights groups es­ti­mate thou­sands still re­main in IS cus­tody. “But now with the news of each grave found, we know not all of them will come back,” he said. “Some of them are never com­ing back.” — AP

RA­MADI: Sol­diers of Iraq’s anti-ter­ror­ism force watch move­ments dur­ing a mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion to re­gain con­trol of the western sub­urbs of the cap­i­tal of Iraq’s An­bar prov­ince, 115 km west of Bagh­dad on Satur­day. — AP

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