MOSUL, IRAQ (AP) — A human skull, a pair of worn trousers and a shoe were among the remains unearthed from a mass grave discovered this week in northern Iraq, a remnant of the brutal rule of the Islamic State (IS) group, Iraqi officials said on Thursday.
The new mass grave was discovered on Monday in the village of Humeydat near the Badoush area west of the city of Mosul, six years after the IS group — at the height of its power — declared a caliphate that stretched across eastern Syria and much of northern and western Iraq.
Dozens of bodies were found buried in a trench stretching hundreds of metres long. Forensics experts have carried out an initial investigation but the spread of the novel coronavirus has impeded excavations, medical officials in Mosul told The Associated Press (AP).
While an investigation is needed to identify the bodies, many believe they were Shiite convicts taken from the local Badoush prison by IS and killed by the militants, shortly after they seized Mosul in June 2014.
Iraqi forces recaptured the prison in March 2017. IS allegedly killed up to 600 inmates in the prison. According to an investigation by Human Rights Watch at the time, based on eyewitness accounts, at least 1,500 inmates were rounded up and transported to a stretch of desert. There, Sunni and Shiite inmates were separated and the latter killed.
Iraqi security forces with assistance from the United States (US)-led coalition defeated IS and reclaimed northern Iraq in a 2016 military campaign. Though IS no longer holds territory in Iraq, remnants of the group are still active and routinely carry out attacks against Iraqi security forces.
But memories of the group’s brutal reign persist, years after the military campaign to root them out.
Hussein al-Nesr, a resident of the Badoush area, is sorrowful the newly found remains could not be given a proper burial.
The Mosul Martyrs Foundation, a government institution caring for the families of those killed under IS, examined the area initially, explained Head of Mosul’s forensics department Dr Hassan Raouf, affiliated with the Health Ministry.
“But we will not make any excavations or exhume the bodies due to the coronavirus situation in Mosul and Iraq.”