Mass grave discovered as Iraqi troops advance towards Mosul
Footage from site shows bones and decomposed bodies among scraps of clothing and plastic bags
In this Monday, November 7th frame grab from video, an Iraqi federal police officer holds his nose as he points towards a mass grave in Hamam al-Alil, Iraq. Photograph: AP
Investigators are examining a mass grave which was found by Iraqi troops advancing further into Islamic State-held territory near the city of Mosul.
The chilling discovery was the latest instance of mass graves being uncovered in territory wrested from Islamic State, also known as Isis, militants.
Footage from the site shows bones and decomposed bodies among scraps of clothing and plastic bags dug out of the ground by a bulldozer after Iraqi troops noticed a strong smell while advancing into the town of Hamam al-Alil on Monday.
“Investigators flew in this morning and are on their way to the grave to conduct examinations and determine the cause of death,” said cabinet official Haider Majeed, in charge of mass grave investigations.
The first officials at the site said the grave, behind an earthen embankment near an agricultural college, holds an estimated 100 bodies, many of them decapitated. The town lies some 30km (19 miles) from Mosul.
It was unclear who the victims were, but a soldier at the site pulled a child’s stuffed animal from the scraps of clothing and rotting flesh, swarming with flies.
Islamic State militants have carried out a series of massacres since seizing large swathes of southern and central Iraq in the summer of 2014, often documenting them with photos and videos circulated online.
The campaign to drive them from Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city and the extremists’ last major urban stronghold in the country, began on October 17th.
Iraqi troops and the Kurdish peshmerga forces are now converging on Mosul, although the deepest advance into an eastern sliver of the city has stalled after militants counter-attacked advancing special forces from within built-up, populated areas.
To the north-east, some 13km (8 miles) from the city, the peshmerga forces continued their push on the town of Bashiqa, believed to be largely deserted except for dozens of Islamic State fighters.
Mortar fire, automatic weapons, and explosions rang out through the morning, as a thick plume of smoke hung over parts of the city, obscuring the view of aircraft.