‘More Than 50’ Mass Graves Found In Former ISIS Territory In Iraq, UN Envoy Says

A UN envoy in Iraq said on Friday more than 50 mass graves have been found in areas of Iraq once held by the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS).

Jan Kubis, special representative in its assistance mission for Iraq, told the UN Security Council “evidence of the heinous crimes” ISIS has committed and said the international community should “take steps to ensure the accountability” of ISIS militants, according to the BBC.

The mass graves were discovered in different parts of the country in recent months as cities and villages were retaken from ISIS. Kubis said that three of the 50 mass graves, which contained the bodies of about 40 people, were found on April 19 around a soccer field in central Ramadi. Iraqi forces retook Ramadi, which was occupied by ISIS terrorists since May of 2015, last December.

“I condemn in the strongest possible terms the continued killings, kidnapping, rape and torture of Iraqis by ISIL [ISIS], which may constitute crimes against humanity, war crimes and even genocide,” Kubis said to the BBC.

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Some pockets of resistance continued against the Iraqi forces in Ramadi until February, when the city came under complete government control again. Mass graves have also been found near Sinjar in northern Iraq, near Anbar in western Iraq and in Tikrit in northern Iraq. The victims notably included tribesmen, Iraqi soldiers, women, and people from the minority Yazidi sect.

Kubis said that despite “notable and consistent progress” against ISIS, the Islamic terrorist group “remains a formidable and determined enemy that constantly adjusts its tactics and attack patterns,” and used the discovery as an example, according to the BBC. He called for actions to address “the root causes of violent extremism,” and said that ISIS would not be defeated by military means alone.

There have been previous reports of atrocities and mass murder by the terrorist group, and mass graves have also been found in different parts of Syria previously controlled by ISIS, according to CNN.

“When ISIS swept through the Yazidi homeland, they rounded up the residents from the nearby areas on the road into Sinjar. The residents, including the boys who refused to be conscripted by the terrorist group, were killed. Witnesses told CNN that more than 130 bodies were in the mass graves there. ISIS has also dumped bodies into mass graves in Syria. A mass grave of about 40 women and children buried in the city of Palmyra was discovered in April. The Syrian news agency reported that the victims bore signs of beheading and torture.”

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The reports come at a time of political crisis for Iraq, which has largely paralyzed the work of the parliament and the government. Supports of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have been staging protests and sit-ins for months now, demanding changes be made to the political system installed by the U.S. following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Just last Saturday, hundreds of his supporters occupied the parliament building in Baghdad, even storming the heavily fortified Green Zone in the Iraqi capital to do so. Kubis warned Iraqi political leaders to work together to end the ongoing political deadlock, saying the resulting chaos is only serving ISIS’ interests.

“The stability, security and unity of Iraq hinge on an effective and inclusive political system, and equality in decision-making at the federal and local levels, tangible solutions to prevent political and sectarian exclusion,” Kubis said, according to Fox News.

The UN envoy stressed that the humanitarian crisis in Iraq remains one of the worst in the world. More than 10 million people – about a third of the population – need international aid. So far, only a quarter of the requested $861 million requested for aid to Iraqis for the year 2016 has been delivered. Mr. Kubis urged donors to contribute.

[Photo by John Moore/Getty Images]