Three mass graves of victims executed by the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) have been discovered near the city of al-Hawija, the Kirkuk province government announced on Sunday (November 12th).
The sites, located in al-Abbasi and Riyadh areas south of al-Hawija, include the remains of around 400 victims, according to local reports.
The graves were uncovered thanks to reports from local residents, Kirkuk provincial council member Maan Ibrahim al-Hamadani told Diyaruna.
The victims were all residents of al-Hawija executed by ISIS elements and then taken to the grave sites, he said.
"Many were government employees and former security forces members accused by the group of disloyalty," said al-Hamadani.
Also, among the victims were entire families killed after they failed to escape from the militants’ grip, he said.
An initial excavation of the graves by the security authorities has shown that some of the victims were dressed in the orange or yellow death row garb worn by most people executed by ISIS.
Al-Hamadani said the victims were likely killed in public, in individual or mass execution campaigns, in front of a crowd of onlookers.
The main purpose of that was "to intimidate the people trapped there, to terrorise the public and exaggerate the group's power", he said.
He did not rule out the possibility of finding other mass graves.
"During its more than three-year control of al-Hawija, ISIS killed a large number of people from the city and from neighbouring areas on various charges and pretexts," said al-Hamadani.
Those numbers "are estimated at about 7,000, some of whom are confirmed dead, while others are still missing and their fate is unknown", he said.
He said Kirkuk's provincial council will explore measures to excavate the graves and identify the victims through DNA testing.
Iraqi forces on October 5th announced the full liberation of al-Hawija from ISIS after nearly two weeks of fighting.