Two Yazidi mass graves found near Sinjar, Iraq

Two mass graves containing the bodies of Iraqi Yazidis have been discovered near Sinjar in northern Iraq. Almost 30 such graves have been uncovered since anti-"Islamic State" forces retook Sinjar last year.

Two graves that each contained the bodies of nine Iraqi Yazidis suspected to have been killed by the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) militant group have been discovered in northern Iraq, located about 150 meters (492 feet) apart.

The graves were found in Um al-Shababik village, according to Sinjar Mayor Mahma Khalil.

Kurdish peshmerga forces found the graves while scouting the area. They contained bones and identity cards that appeared to have been covered over with sandy earth by a bulldozer.

With this discovery, 29 such graves have been found since anti-IS forces took Sinjar, the Yazidi's main urban hub in Iraq, back from IS. The number of graves discovered is expected to rise as IS militants are driven further back.

At least 1,600 bodies discovered to date

IS militants killed, captured and enslaved thousands of Yazidis in 2014 as they gained control of the area. Khalil said at least 1,600 bodies are in the graves that have been discovered so far, and investigators with the United Nations have said actions by IS constitute genocide.

According to the Office of Kidnapped Affairs in Duhok, approximately 3,500 Yazidis still live in areas controlled by IS, many of them women and children.

The Yazidis are a religious sect that combine aspects of several ancient Middle Eastern religions, including Islam, Christianity and Zoroastrianism. They are considered devil-worshippers by the Sunni Islamist insurgents, including IS.

The operation to liberate Mosul from "Islamic State"

Iraqi army discover mass grave

While Iraqi troops advanced further into territory held by the so called “Islamic State” in their campaign to recapture Mosul, they found a mass grave which holds about 100 bodies, many of them decapitated. AP footage shows bones and decomposed bodies dug out of the ground by a bulldozer. This Iraqi federal police officer holds a stuffed animal he found on the site.

The operation to liberate Mosul from "Islamic State"

Evidence of brutality

The grave, found near the town of Hammam al-Alil near Mosul, proves to be a dark testimony to the „Islamic State’s“ brutality. IS militants have carried out a series of massacres since seizing large areas of southern and central Iraq in 2014. This photo shows a member of the Iraqi security forces inspecting a building that was used as a prison by Islamic State militants in Hammam al-Alil.

The operation to liberate Mosul from "Islamic State"

Freed from terror

These displaced Iraqi men from the Hammam al-Alil area celebrate their liberation as they return to their homes after the recapture of their village by Iraqi forces from Islamic State.

The operation to liberate Mosul from "Islamic State"

Oil fields on fire

Oil wells have been set ablaze by IS in an apparent response to the ongoing military offensive to drive the extremist group out of its stronghold. A military commander said more than 5,000 civilians have been evacuated from eastern parts of Mosul and taken to camps. The surprise attack showed that even while under siege, the group could still sow chaos in parts of Iraq far from its base in Mosul.

The operation to liberate Mosul from "Islamic State"

What is the fight for Mosul all about?

Smoke rises during clashes between Peshmerga forces and IS militants in the town of Bashiqa, east of Mosul. Initially used by the "IS" to establish their caliphate and henceforth the key source of prestige and resources, Mosul is also the base for IS’s chemical weapon operation. The ancient Assyrian city also has formed a vital source of tax revenue and forced labor.

The operation to liberate Mosul from "Islamic State"

The role of the Iraqi army and its allies

Iraqi special forces take cover as their unit comes under fire from an Islamic State sniper. Together with Kurdish Peshmerga and Shiite militias, Iraqi forces intensified fighting and moved into more densely populated areas of the city without air support from the US-led coalition due to the high-risk of civilian casualties.

The operation to liberate Mosul from "Islamic State"

Kurdish Peshmerga

Meanwhile, Kurdish peshmerga forces decided to focus on other strongholds of resistance in northern Iraq and on the Kurdish-controlled city of Kirkuk, where IS initiated a campaign of violence in response to the advances of the Iraqi army towards Mosul.

The operation to liberate Mosul from "Islamic State"

Fleeing from the fighting

The United Nations says over 34,000 people have been displaced from Mosul since the operation began on October 17, with about three quarters settled in camps and the rest in host communities.

kbd/cmk (AFP, Reuters)

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