An estimated 670 inmates from Badush prison in the city of Mosul were reportedly murdered by ISIS militants on June 10, 2014, UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said in a statement on Monday. The mass murder was cited by the accounts of some 20 survivors and 16 witnesses.
According to the Independent, during the incident ISIS militants — now calling themselves the Islamic State — loaded between 1,000 and 1,500 prisoners from the institution on to trucks and drove them to an uninhabited area. They then separated Sunni inmates and removed them from the group. The Shia prisoners remaining were verbally assaulted by the ISIS militants and then lined up into four rows. At this point, they were told to kneel. Witnesses say that is when the ISIS militants shot all of the Shia prisoners, killing them all. Pillay says:
“Such cold-blooded, systematic and intentional killings of civilians, after singling them out for their religious affiliation, may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. They are systematically targeting men, women and children based on their ethnic, religious or sectarian affiliation and are ruthlessly carrying out widespread ethnic and religious cleansing in the areas under their control.”
The Guardian reports that the ethnic cleansing took place shortly after ISIS took over Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq. The Iraqi army had just fled the region and the prison was confiscated. At the time ISIS secured the prison, 1,000 to 1,500 prisoners remained. It was at this point that the militants separated the prisoners and began the mass murder. The Guardian reports that the UN cites testimony from eyewitnesses and survivors, saying Islamic State gunmen arrived at the front gate in a group of pick-up trucks. Several carried machine guns. They took out the prisoners and sorted them into two groups, Sunni and 670 Shias.
The exact number of Shias taken is unknown, but one witness recounts that the Islamic State militants told their Shia captives they would be “released” once their identities were verified. The prisoners had to give a number in turn – beginning with one, with the last prisoner saying, “I’m 679”. The fighters then loaded the them into trucks and drove three to four kilometres south-east to an uninhabited “desert-like location,” somewhere between Mosul’s main road and its railway line. All the individuals in the trucks would later be killed as described above.
If no prisoners escaped and eyewitness accounts are correct, 679 Shia captives perished that day at the hands of ISIS.
Unfortunately this is not the first time an ethnic cleansing has taken place in the region. The Independent notes that hundreds of members of the Yazidi community in Nineveh have been killed and up to 2,500 were kidnapped at the beginning of August. On August 15, a Cotcho village in Southern Sinjar was overtaken and hundreds more Yazidis were killed and abducted. Meanwhile, in the town of Amirili, at least 13,000 Shia Turkmen, including 10,000 women and children, have been taken since June 15.