On the borders of a small Iraqi town, which had been occupied by Islamic State fighters until two days ago, a massive grave has been found. The bodies were dumped on piles of trash in dirt fields on the boundary of the town, and there were indications that the captives of the ISIS fighters were tortured.
The mass grave was discovered on Monday after the town was liberated. It is the latest in a series of burial sites uncovered since ISIS fighters have been forced to retreat from the area. Iraqi officials believe that there will be many more mass burial sites uncovered in the upcoming weeks as the Iraqi forces continue to take over more territory from the brutal extremists.
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The causes of death and the identities of the corpses that were left behind at a bombed-out college in Haman al-Alil, are unknown. Federal police in Iraq on Monday stated that there were approximately 100 corpses found, and a team of investigators uncovered 20-25 of those within an hour’s time. It was too difficult to tell how the individuals died, and director of the mass graves unit, Dhargam Kamil, noted that “the dogs got at them.”
The true manner that caused the death of those found will have to await the results of the forensic team. At present, the bodies are still being searched for. The Iraqi military had initially suggested that all of the discovered bodies had been decapitated. Evidence does not support this claim, yet there has been evidence found that indicated torture was involved.
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“There was evidence of torture,” said Muhammad Tahir Al Tamimi, an official from Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s office.
Evidence supporting this includes the findings by investigators that bodies had been bound at the wrists and ankles, blindfolded and likely shot. Kamil described the brutality that the individuals likely endured.
“They were killed by ISIS in acts of revenge. In very brutal ways, it appears. Dumping the bodies like this was also a part of the punishment. Their message was that these men did not deserve a proper burial, that they were thrown out like trash.”
Investigators note that based on the state of decomposition of the bodies, they were probably disposed of in the last few weeks. Locals also told Iraqi forces that the past three weeks have seen Islamic State fighters rounding up any former members of Iraqi forces. The Washington Post notes the conditions that prisoners were held in by the fighters, as relayed by locals who uncovered the jail the fighters used.
“In the center of recaptured Hamam al-Alil, neighbors brought two Washington Post reporters into a villa they say had been used as a kind of courthouse, interrogation center and jail. In darkened rooms on the second floor, there were five numbered makeshift cells with heavy metal doors. The cells were tiny, with just enough room for a man or two to stand.”
The United Nations corroborated the claims on Tuesday that Islamic State fighters had recently abducted 295 former Iraqi security forces members who resided in towns and villages to the south and west of Mosul, formerly the ISIS stronghold. The recent victories by the Iraqi military forced the militants to retreat to the Mosul airport from the area of Hammam al-Alil, along with 1,500 families they took as hostages. United Nations officials fear that they will be used as human shields. Ravina Shamdasani, a spokeswoman for the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights, shared fears on the matter.
“People forcibly moved or abducted, it appears, are either intended to be used as human shields or — depending on their perceived affiliations — killed”
Locals have shared that the militants did, in fact, round up former Iraqi forces and execute them after forcing them to walk to Hammam al-Alil at gunpoint after they feared the individuals were conspiring with current Iraqi officials.
[Featured Image by Graeme Robertson/Getty Images]