Bat­tle for Mo­sul: In­ves­ti­ga­tors ex­am­ine mass grave site

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

IRAQI in­ves­ti­ga­tors yes­ter­day car­ried out an ini­tial ex­am­i­na­tion of a mass grave site dis­cov­ered in an area south of Mo­sul that was re­cently re­taken from ISIL con­trol.

Iraqi se­cu­rity forces an­nounced the dis­cov­ery of the site in the Ham­mam al-Alil area on Mon­day, af­ter re­tak­ing it as part of the op­er­a­tion to re­cap­ture Mo­sul, the last Iraqi city held by the Is­lamic State of Iraq and the Le­vant group, also known as ISIS.

“To­day, the team con­ducted an ini­tial ex­am­i­na­tion,” said Mo­hammed Ta­her al-Tamimi, head of the op­er­a­tions room in the gen­eral sec­re­tar­iat of the cab­i­net, which he said is co­or­di­nat­ing and sup­port­ing ef­forts to in­ves­ti­gate the site.

Iraq’s Joint Op­er­a­tions Com­mand said on Mon­day that 100 head­less bod­ies had been found in the Ham­mam al-Alil area — an as­ser­tion that did not ap­pear to be sup­ported by avail­able ev­i­dence on the ground.

“From what we saw to­day, I be­lieve that there are around 25 bod­ies vis­i­ble. But this does not mean that this is the to­tal num­ber. We be­lieve that there are very large num­bers there,” Tamimi said.

From what we saw to­day, I be­lieve that there are around 25 bod­ies vis­i­ble.

Mo­hammed Ta­her al-Tamimi, head of op­er­a­tions room, gen­eral sec­re­tar­iat

Men in Iraqi po­lice uni­forms used ropes to pull two bod­ies, one of them head­less, from the grave, and also re­moved a de­cap­i­tated head, but they were later told to re­turn them to their orig­i­nal lo­ca­tions.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tors, some of whom wore face masks be­cause of the smell, took notes at the grave site.

Yes­ter­day, the United Na­tions said that ISIL fight­ers have ab­ducted 295 for­mer Iraqi Se­cu­rity Forces mem­bers near Mo­sul and forced 1,500 fam­i­lies to re­treat with them from the town of Ham­mam al-Alil to­wards Mo­sul air­port.

“Peo­ple forcibly moved or ab­ducted, it ap­pears, are ei­ther in­tended to be used as hu­man shields or — de­pend­ing on their per­ceived af­fil­i­a­tions — killed,” UN hu­man rights spokes­woman Rav­ina Sham­dasani said.

The UN also had in­for­ma­tion about the ab­duc­tion of at least 30 sheikhs in Sin­jar last week, and one re­port that 18 of them had been killed on Fri­day.

ISIL over­ran large ar­eas north and west of Baghdad in 2014, declar­ing a cross-bor­der “caliphate” that also in­cluded ter­ri­tory in neigh­bour­ing Syria.

Its rule has been marked by re­peated atrocities in­clud­ing mass be­head­ings and other ex­e­cu­tions that it has doc­u­mented in pho­tos and videos shared by its sup­port­ers on­line.

Iraqi forces have since re­gained much of the ter­ri­tory that ISIL seized, and have un­cov­ered a series of mass graves and mas­sacre sites as they have pushed the group back.

Mean­while, Iraqi Kur­dish forces have ex­changed heavy fire with ISIL fight­ers as they move from two di­rec­tions into the cen­tre of Bashiqa, a town along a key sup­ply route for the armed group on the way to Mo­sul.

The of­fen­sive to re­claim the town 13km east of Mo­sul city is the lat­est push in a broader of­fen­sive to drive ISIL out of Iraq’s sec­ond-largest city.

Com­bat be­gan at dawn on Mon­day with a Kur­dish bar­rage of heavy ar­tillery, Katyusha rock­ets, and mor­tar rounds strik­ing ISIL po­si­tions, pro­vid­ing cover for the ad­vance of ar­moured col­umns.

“Pesh­merga fight­ers tell us they’ve re­taken most of Bashiqa now,” Al Jazeera’s Mo­hammed Jamjoom re­ported from about 2.5km away.

He said troops had se­cured the mu­nic­i­pal build­ing in the cen­tre of Bashiqa. How­ever, by late Mon­day, the bat­tle still raged on. “We’re still hear­ing heavy fight­ing go­ing on: street bat­tles, gun­fire, there’s been air strikes hap­pen­ing as well. So it seems, at this hour, the fight is still in­ten­si­fy­ing,” our cor­re­spon­dent said.

Bashiqa is be­lieved to be largely de­serted ex­cept for dozens of ISIL fight­ers.

“We have the co­or­di­nates of their bases and tun­nels, and we are tar­get­ing them from here in or­der to weaken them so that our forces can reach their tar­gets more eas­ily,” Pesh­merga com­man­der Bri­gadier-Gen­eral Iskan­der Khalil Gardi told the As­so­ci­ated Press news agency. — Al Jazeera

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