In­ves­ti­ga­tors ex­am­ine field of hor­ror in Iraq

Baltimore Sun - - WORLD - By Brian Ro­han

BAGHDAD— Th­es­tench of death drew Iraqi sol­diers to the unsettled plot of land freshly lib­er­ated from Is­lamic State fight­ers.

When a bull­dozer scraped the ground, bones poked out from the sur­face, along with cloth­ing, garbage bags, hu­man re­mains swarm­ing with flies — and a stuffed an­i­mal.

About 100 bod­ies, many de­cap­i­tated, are sus­pected to be buried in what is likely the lat­est mass grave left by the re­treat­ing ji­hadis, of­fi­cials said.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors on Tues­day be­gan their probe of the site, near an agri­cul­tural school in the town of Ha­mam al-Alil.

The grue­some dis­cov­ery by troops ad­vanc­ing on mil­i­tant-held Mo­sul fits a pat­tern in ter­ri­tory re­taken from Is­lamic State, also called ISIS. The ex­trem­ist group killed hun­dreds as it swept across north­ern and cen­tral parts of Iraq in 2014 and is be­lieved to have car­ried out a bru­tal crack­down since the Oct. 17 start of an of­fen­sive to re­cap­ture the coun­try’s sec­ond-largest city.

“In­ves­ti­ga­tors flew in this morn­ing,” said Haider Ma­jeed, a Cab­i­net of­fi­cial in charge of mass grave in­quiries. “They’re con­duct­ing ex­am­i­na­tions to de­ter­mine the cause of death.”

It was un­clear who the vic­tims were, although the dis­cov­ery of a stuffed an­i­mal raised the pos­si­bil­ity that chil­dren may be among the dead.

In Geneva, the U.N. hu­man rights of­fice said it was in­ves­ti­gat­ing if the site was con­nected to re­ports about the al­leged killing of po­lice in the same area.

“We had re­ports that 50 for­mer Iraqi po­lice of­fi­cers had been killed in a build­ing out­side Mo­sul,” spokes­woman Rav­ina Sham­dasani said. “This build­ing was ac­tu­ally the same agri­cul­tural fa­cil­ity, agri­cul­tural col­lege, that has been cited right now as the site of these mass graves.”

She also said the U.N. had re­ceived in­for­ma­tion al­leg­ing that ISIS last week ab­ducted at least 295 for­mer se­cu­rity forces per­son­nel from vil­lages around the north­west­ern town of Tal Afar, as well as the western part of the vil­lage of Mawaly. The fate of the men is un­known.

About 30 sheikhs also re­port­edly were taken from the Sin­jar dis­trict, with one re­port say­ing more than half of them were killed. The mil­i­tants are al­leged to have forcibly moved about 1,500 fam­i­lies to Mo­sul’s air­port from Ha­mam al-Alil, she added.

Iraqi troops and Kur­dish pesh­merga forces are con­verg­ing on Mo­sul, although their deep­est ad­vance into an eastern sliver has stalled af­ter mil­i­tants coun­ter­at­tacked frompop­u­lated ar­eas.

To the north­east, about 8 miles from the city, the pesh­merga con­tin­ued their push on the town of Bashiqa, be­lieved to be largely de­serted ex­cept for dozens of ISIS fight­ers.

More than 34,000 peo­ple have been dis­placed from Mo­sul, the U.N. said.

Since the bat­tle for Mo­sul reached the city Fri­day, about 11,000 peo­ple have fled to the east.

ISIS has boasted of us­ing mass killings to ter­rify op­po­nents, of­ten post­ing grisly pho­tos and video of them on­line.

In Baghdad, mean­while, bomb­ings killed at least eight peo­ple and wounded 28 oth­ers, ac­cord­ing to po­lice and med­i­cal of­fi­cials.

EPA

Iraqi of­fi­cers and foren­sics staffers in­spect a likely mass grave Tues­day south of Mo­sul.

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