Mosul: Hundreds of bodies discovered in mass graves

Reports from Human Rights Watch and Iraqi army suggest up to 500 bodies found following similar grim discovery in same town last week 

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The Independent Online

Two new mass graves in which Isis deposited the bodies of hundreds of shot and decapitated victims have been discovered in a town south of the militants' Iraqi stronghold of Mosul, a new report from Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Iraqi army have said.

Approximately 250 - 300 men - many of whom were former police officers - were rounded up and killed three weeks ago as Isis retreated from the town, the watchdog said on Thursday, and their bodies dumped near the town of Hammam al-Alil. 

Bodies were also thrown down a nearby well, Commander Brigadier General Faris Radhi Abbas and Abdulrahman al Wagga of Nineveh Provincial Council told CNN.  Authorities suspected the well had been used to by Isis to dispose of bodyies since the jihadis took over the area two years ago. 

“Some of the victims were thrown alive by Isis into this well and some others were left there to die from their injuries,” Mr al Wagga said, estimating a further 200 bodies were at the spot. 

The members of the recently killed group of policemen were rounded up from nearby villages, local residents told HRW. They were driven to a site outside of town, where the sounds of automatic gunfire and cries of distress were heard on three consecutive nights beginning October 28. 

The grim new finds follow the discovery of 100 bodies in another mass grave near Hammam al-Alil on November 7. 

“This is another piece of evidence of the horrific mass murder by Isis of former law enforcement officers in and around Mosul,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Isis should be held accountable for these crimes against humanity.” 

Hammam al-Alil is around 30 miles (50km) south of Mosul, and is the last major settlement along the River Tigris before Mosul itself.  

The town was declared to be cleared of Isis militants by the Iraqi army ten days ago.

Mosul battle: Civilians flee ahead of fighting

The US-backed Iraqi coalition offensive to retake Mosul - Iraq’s second largest city and the last urban centre under Isis control in the country - began one month ago.

Elite Counter Terrorism Service units have managed to enter the city’s suburbs from the east, but fighting has been fierce, and Iraqi troops are proceeding with caution, wary of the 1.5million civilians thought to still be trapped there.

Several reports say Isis has been forcibly transporting locals for use as human shields in strategically important parts of the city.

The city is also said to be rigged with improvised explosive devices, as well as suicide bombers and sniper fire, all of which have slowed progress in the dense urban battlefield. 

Aid agencies warn that up to 700,000 are expected to flee the fighting.