Iraqi Security Forces are discovering Islamic State mass graves all over territory formerly governed by the terrorist group.
The graves are so frequently discovered the Iraqi government does not have a current tally. The Associated Press estimates nearly 15,000 dead bodies have been found so far in verified mass graves. “We are finding new ones every day,” an Iraqi official responsible for missing persons in Iraq told the LA times.
Many of the mass graves date back to ISIS’s initial occupation of territory in Iraq near major cities like Tikrit, Sinjar, and Mosul. One grave alone is estimated to hold 1700 Iraqi soldiers captured in 2014 when ISIS took the city of Tikrit.
In the early days of the Iraqi Security Force advance on Mosul, nearly 100 corpses were discovered decapitated in a mass grave. The corpses were all civilians who were killed in the early days of ISIS’s occupation given the decomposition of the bodies.
ISIS has taken steps to ensure many of its crimes cannot be uncovered by booby trapping mass graves. The graves are fraught with mines and other explosives to make excavation as difficult as possible. “De-mining organizations are overloaded trying to decontaminate areas for returns, so this is just not going to be the priority,” senior Iraq researcher at Human Rights Watch, Belkis Wille, elaborated to The Los Angeles Times.
Families of victims are anxious to find the bodies of loved ones, and risk contaminating the graves for war crimes investigatations in the future. Many families need to find the bodies to get an official death certificate in order to claim benefits from the Iraqi government.
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