Mass graves left behind by the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) have been found at six new sites in Ninawa province, Iraqi officials said, and there are expectations that more gravesites will be discovered.
Since ISIS was ousted from the northern province, mass graves containing the remains of thousands of its victims have been discovered across Iraq.
As it works to locate ISIS victims, the Iraqi government continues to find new gravesites, said Zain al-Abdin Muslih Ali, deputy director of the Ninawa Martyrs Directorate.
When local residents, volunteers or security forces discover a mass grave, he told Diyaruna, the directorate conducts a preliminary examination, and then a case file is opened with the Martyrs Foundation in Baghdad.
The foundation then sends a team comprised of Directorate of Mass Graves staff and a forensics team from the Ninawa Health Department to inspect the site, which is cordoned off by the security forces.
Dozens of grave sites
Mass graves in Ninawa are in six main areas: Sinjar, Zamar, al-Qayyarah, Qaraj, Badoush and al-Maqali, where dozens of gravesites were discovered, Ali said.
In the Sinjar village of Kojo, ISIS killed nearly 1,400 people and deposited their bodies in a mass grave. Elsewhere, in al-Qayyarah, hundreds of victims were buried in al-Khasfa gravesite.
There are mass graves in the town of Badoush, where ISIS operatives executed some 670 inmates of the town's central prison after the extremist group overran Mosul in 2014, Ali said. That site is locally known as the "cadaver farm", near al-Kasak, where local officials on June 28th unearthed a new mass grave.
In a previous interview with Diyaruna, Mohammed Askar al-Shaqouli, director of the Ninawa Martyrs Directorate, said the grave could hold the remains of some 500 victims, making it one of the largest discovered in the province.
Yazidis demand retribution
The remains in the newly discovered mass grave have not yet been identified, but officials believe they belong to Badoush prison inmates and Yazidi civilians.
Barakat Shammou, a former Yazidi representative at the Ninawa provincial council, told Diyaruna that ISIS committed numerous crimes against the Yazidis, whose families are now demanding retribution.
He called on the Iraqi government and the international community to proceed with identifying Yazidi victims' remains in mass graves.
Yazidis and their representatives want to know the fate of some 3,000 children and women who are still missing and to ensure that justice is served, he said.
A joint Iraqi and UN team has been working for nearly two years to exhume human remains from the mass graves, especially in Sinjar. The effort has been aimed at collecting data and forensic evidence that would indict ISIS.
Since 2017, over 200 mass graves of ISIS victims have been discovered, dispersed across Ninawa, Salaheddine, Anbar and Kirkuk provinces.
Legal expert Ali al-Tamimi told Diyaruna there is an international commitment to helping Iraq finalise investigations into the mass graves. He said the UN and the global community have shown willingness to help Iraq with the investigations.
Iraq should make efforts to seek international support to help victims of terrorism, he said, in addition to contributions to aid reconstruction efforts.