Human Rights Watch (HRW) says the Daesh terrorist group has executed possibly hundreds of detainees in Iraq’s northern city of Mosul and buried them in a mass grave that could be the largest one discovered in the country so far.
Witnesses told the New York-based rights organization that the victims, including several members of Iraqi security forces, were executed between June 2014 and May or June 2015, with their bodies dumped in a sinkhole at a site in western Mosul.
Terrorists had also laid landmines and booby-traps in the mass grave in an attempt to “maximize harm to Iraqis,” according to Lama Fakih, HRW deputy Middle East director. She described the mass grave as “a grotesque symbol of ISIS’s (Daesh) cruel and depraved conduct – a crime of a monumental scale.”
“If exhumation is possible, the process should be carried out under international standards,” the HRW said.
Iraqi forces took control of the site in mid-February 2017. Human Rights Watch visited the site on March 7, but was unable to inspect the grave due to the landmines.
The United Nations estimated last month that removing all mines, explosive devices and booby traps left by Daesh in and around Mosul will cost as much as 50 million dollars.
This is only one of dozens of Daesh mass graves found in Iraq and Syria, but, according to the report, it could be the largest. It was not possible to determine the exact number of the victims.
Earlier in March, Iraqi forces announced they had found another mass grave near Daesh Badoush Prison, some 10 kilometers west of Mosul. The terrorists held between 500 and 600 detainees in the prison. Later on, an Iraqi general told Human Rights Watch that under the military’s supervision, medical experts from Baghdad had exhumed about 400 bodies from the site.
The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), which tackles the issue of people missing as a result of the conflict, however, told the HRW that the excavations were unacceptable.
“They must be carried out by trained teams with sufficient experience, because they are dealing with human remains at a crime scene,” said deputy head of the organization Fawaz Abdulameer.
Daesh began its campaign of terror in northern and western Iraq in 2014.
Iraqi army soldiers and allied fighters are leading military operations to win back militant-held regions, trying to eliminate terrorists or driving them out of their country.
They took control of eastern Mosul in January after 100 days of fighting, and launched the battle in the west on February 19.
The United Nations said Wednesday that around 45,000 people have fled the fighting between Iraqi forces and Daesh terrorists in western Mosul over the past week, a 22 percent increase from the previous week.