Terrorism

Iraqi forces uncover ISIL graveyard in Fallujah

By Alaa Hussain in Baghdad

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After liberating Fallujah, Iraqi forces found an 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant' cemetery containing hundreds of the group's fighters. [Photo courtesy of the Iraqi Ministry of Defence]

Iraqi forces found a graveyard in Fallujah containing the remains of hundreds of "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) fighters killed during the battles to break the group's grip on the city, local officials tell Diyaruna.

The security forces also discovered a building that housed ISIL's "sharia court", which the group had used to suppress city residents until Fallujah's liberation in June this year.

During ISIL's control of Fallujah, the city served as a base for the group's leaders and a magnet for Arab and foreign fighters, who imposed ISIL's harsh rule inside the city and staged attacks in neighbouring areas.

"Iraqi forces found a graveyard in the city of Fallujah that has over 500 graves, including some 300 new graves for ISIL elements who were killed during the recent battles to liberate Fallujah," said Iraqi Joint Operations Command spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasul.

Grave markers reveal Libyan, Tunisian, Syrian, Algerian and Indonesian nationals among the dead, as well as other nationalities, he told Diyaruna.

"ISIL's dead who are buried in that cemetery were killed mostly as a result of aerial bombardment by the international coalition air forces before the storming of the city or later at the hands of the joint Iraqi forces during the liberation battles," said Fallujah police chief Col. Jamal al-Jumaili.

The police will identify the bodies of the foreign fighters buried there once they receive the security dossier from the Iraqi army, he told Diyaruna, adding that for the time being, the region remains a military zone.

Exhumation

The ISIL cemetery is in the middle of the city, near the Institute of Islamic Studies and the old Fallujah Club, Fallujah mayor Issa al-Sayer told Diyaruna.

The bodies will not remain in Fallujah, he said, and "will be moved out of the city as soon as the situation is stable there".

The local administration is awaiting the full restoration of security in order to execute a court decision to exhume the graves and rebury the bodies elsewhere, he said.

This will be done in co-ordination with the municipal and police directorates and the health department, al-Sayer said, and in consultation with the Sunni Endowment in Anbar.

This cemetery is the latest graveyard to be found in the city, he said, calling on the Iraqi army to report any more grave sites they find to the local administration.

ISIL prison

Iraqi forces also found ISIL's "sharia court" in Fallujah, said Brig. Jalil Abdul Ridha, commander of the Iraqi army's 1st Infantry Division.

The court was located in one of the houses ISIL had occupied, he told Diyaruna, noting that it also housed a prison with iron cages and solitary confinement chambers.

"This court and prison had been used to oppress the people of Fallujah who did not subscribe to the group's ideology, including the elderly and children," Abdul Ridha said.

Iraqi forces continue to search for all explosive remnants of war left behind in the city in order to prepare it for the return of the displaced population, he added.

The security services have now secured four residential neighbourhoods -- al-Shurta, al-Dubbat 1 and 2 and al-Askari -- which will be ready to receive their residents soon, he added.

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