November 12, 2017

IRAQ: Mass Graves Holding '400 Islamic State (ISIS) Victims' Found In Kirkuk.

Daily Mail, UK
written by Kelly Mclaughlin and AFP staff
Sunday November 12, 2017

Mass graves containing at least 400 suspected Islamic State group victims have been found in the disputed Iraqi province of Kirkuk, Iraqi authorities said.

The string of grisly discoveries was made on Saturday at a military base around two miles (three kilometres) from Hawija in northern Iraq. The base was used by US troops prior to 2011.

Jihadists had turned the city 'into an execution ground' after seizing the territory in 2014, Kirkuk governor Rakan Saeed said.

'Not less than 400 people were executed,' he said, adding that some were clad in the uniform of prisoners condemned to death while others wore civilian clothing.

'We are standing here, where ... at least 400 civilians were dragged, some in their red jumpsuits, and brutally executed by ISIS,' he added.

Colonel Murtada Abbas of the 60th Brigade in the Iraqi military said that people who had witnessed the executions led authorities to the graves.

The governor of Kirkuk has asked the Iraqi government and the Commission of Human Rights to work to try to identify the victims.

IS was forced out of Hawija - 150 miles (240 kilometres) north of Baghdad - by Iraqi forces in October in a sweeping offensive that has seen the group lose the vast bulk of territory.

Iraqi troops and Kurdish forces drove IS from the northern town of Hawija on October 10 after nearly three weeks of fighting. Hundreds of IS fighters and their families surrendered.

It was the last major unified operation by Iraqi federal forces and Kurdish forces known as the peshmerga.

Shortly after the fighting ended, the two allies clashed over the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and other disputed territories, a sign that longstanding tensions were once again surfacing in the absence of a common threat.

As government troops have advanced across Iraq they have uncovered dozens of mass graves holding hundreds of bodies in areas that fell under the jihadists' brutal rule.

The burial pits near Hawija were discovered 'thanks to witness accounts from local residents' given to the Iraqi military, General Mortada al-Luwaibi said.

Saad Abbas, a farmer from the area, told AFP that during the three years of IS control the group's fighters could be seen 'driving around in cars with their prisoners'.

'They would shoot them and then throw them to the ground or burn their bodies,' Abbas said.

Elsewhere in Kirkuk, twin suicide attacks killed at least six people last Sunday in the disputed province's city of the same name, an official said.

The attackers struck near a former police station used by Saraya al-Salam, a Shiite paramilitary force led by powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, the official said on condition of anonymity.

Twelve people were also wounded in the two explosions, about 15 minutes apart. The first attacker blew up an explosives-rigged car, followed by the second, who used an explosive belt, the official added.

Sadr's force, formerly known as the Mahdi Army, is part of the Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary alliance that has battled both the Islamic State group and Kurdish forces.

Iraqi security forces backed by the Hashed in mid-October seized oil-rich Kirkuk province from Kurdish peshmerga forces in the wake of a Kurdish independence vote held in defiance of Baghdad.

Kurdish media have since accused the Hashed, an alliance composed mainly of Shiite militias, of carrying out a campaign of retribution against Kurdish civilians

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