The removal of unidentified bodies from the western bank of the Tigris River in Mosul has been completed, the Iraqi Civil Defence Directorate announced Thursday (May 17th).
The process began on Tuesday after a government team set up to oversee the removal of all visible bodies and those buried under the rubble of destroyed buildings began its work, focusing their efforts on Mosul's Old City.
The Civil Defence Directorate headed the team, which included representatives of the Ninawa provincial police, the army’s 20th Division, the Ninawa Operations Command and the health and municipalities directorates.
The team was pulled together quickly on the orders of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, said Lt. Col. Rabie Ibrahim Hassan, who is in charge of the Civil Defence Directorate teams working to extract bodies from Mosul.
Searches were conducted along the west bank of the Tigris, adjacent to al-Shahwani neighbourhood, Hassan told Diyaruna on Friday.
"We have recovered a total of 763 bodies over the last three days," he said. "After making sure there were no more bodies, we announced the end of searches there."
Unidentified bodies likely ISIS elements
All of the recovered bodies were decayed and classified as unidentified, and are likely "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) elements who tried to escape across the Tigris after being defeated in the Old City, Hassan said.
They were probably registered as unidentified as no family members or others had come forward to report them missing, he said.
"After the start of the battles to take back Mosul from ISIS (in October 2016) we started our work to retrieve bodies," he said. "We were advancing in the investigation and exploration in light of reports we received from local people."
Local residents had come forward to identify the places where their family members or other people they knew had gone missing, he added.
"These reports stopped at the beginning of this year, and we announced on January 8th the completion of the retrieval of bodies of civilian victims listed on missing persons lists" from under the rubble of destroyed buildings, he said.
By that date, the bodies of 2,585 civilians had been collected, according to unofficial reports.
Efforts to locate and retrieve any bodies that might remain continue, Hassan said. "Our duties continue to make sure that all of those bodies are retrieved."