Ex­perts probe IS mass grave near Mo­sul

Malta Independent - - WORLD -

Iraqi foren­sic ex­perts are in­ves­ti­gat­ing a mass grave that was dis­cov­ered by troops ad­vanc­ing to­wards the Is­lamic State-held city of Mo­sul. The Iraqi mil­i­tary has said the grave, in the grounds of an agri­cul­tural col­lege in the town of Ha­mam al-Alil, con­tains about 100 de­cap­i­tated bod­ies. Most have been re­duced to skeletons, so it is un­clear who the vic­tims were. IS mil­i­tants have car­ried out many mass killings and have been ac­cused of fresh atrocities in the area in re­cent weeks. They are be­ing forced to re­treat to Mo­sul, the last ma­jor IS ur­ban strong­hold in Iraq, in an of­fen­sive by pro-govern­ment forces that be­gan on 17 Oc­to­ber. Iraqi troops found the mass grave af­ter notic­ing a strong smell while ad­vanc­ing into the town, about 30km south of Mo­sul, on Mon­day. A bull­dozer sent to the site, be­side an earthen em­bank­ment, un­earthed bones and de­com­posed bod­ies, along with scraps of cloth­ing and plas­tic bags. It was not im­me­di­ately known if the vic­tims were se­cu­rity forces per­son­nel or civil­ians. But video footage from the As­so­ci­ated Press showed a sol­dier hold­ing up a child’s stuffed an­i­mal found at the grave. A mem­ber of the Nin­eveh pro­vin­cial coun­cil, Ab­dul Rah­man al-Wag­gaa, said IS mil­i­tants had used the agri­cul­tural col­lege as “a killing field” for hun­dreds of peo­ple in the days be­fore troops, po­lice and mili­ti­a­men re­took the town. “They would tor­ture them in­side and then take them out of the neigh­bour­hood and ei­ther shoot them or slit their throats,” he told Reuters news agency. A for­mer English teacher from Ha­mam al-Alil mean­while said he had seen IS mil­i­tants drag­ging civil­ians to a makeshift jail near his home and then send­ing them in the mid­dle of the night to be killed. “The devil him­self would be as­tounded by Daesh’s meth­ods of tor­ture. It is be­yond the imag­i­na­tion,” Riyad Ahmed told Reuters, us­ing a pe­jo­ra­tive term for IS based on the Ara­bic acro­nym of the ji­hadist group’s pre­vi­ous name. In 2014, the ji­hadists car­ried out mass killings of se­cu­rity forces per­son­nel and mem­bers of eth­nic and re­li­gious mi­nori­ties as they swept across north­ern Iraq af­ter tak­ing con­trol of Mo­sul, boast­ing about them in pho­tos and videos cir­cu­lated on­line. Since the op­er­a­tion to re­cap­ture Mo­sul was launched three weeks ago, the UN has re­ceived re­ports that mil­i­tants have car­ried out fresh atrocities. On 29 Oc­to­ber, they are al­leged to have killed 40 for­mer sol­diers from the Ha­mam al-Alil and Shura ar­eas, and thrown their bod­ies into the River Ti­gris. Two days later, they are re­ported to have brought lor­ries and minibuses to Ha­mam al-Alil in an at­tempt to forcibly trans­fer some 25,000 civil­ians to lo­ca­tions in and around Mo­sul for use as hu­man shields. Most of the ve­hi­cles were pre­vented from leav­ing by US-led coali­tion air­craft pa­trolling the area, ac­cord­ing to the UN. Also yes­ter­day, Kur­dish Pesh­merga fight­ers re­port­edly took com­plete con­trol of the town of Bashiqa, about 12km north-east of Mo­sul, a day af­ter launch­ing an as­sault to re­take it.

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