Islamic State mass graves are being discovered by Iraqi Security Forces all throughout the territory once governed by ISIS.
Forces have been finding graves so frequently across the land, that the Iraqi government hasn’t been able to keep count. However, by the estimates of the Associated Press, about 15,000 dead bodies have been uncovered in verified ISIS mass graves so far.
LA Times spoke with an Iraqi official in charge of missing people in Iraq. He told reporters that they’re finding new dead bodies every single day.
Many of these ISIS mass graves have been around ever since the initial occupation of Iraq territory by ISIS near major cities, such as Mosul, Sinjar and Tikrit. One grave, according to officials, holds an estimated 1,700 Iraqi soldiers. They were captured when the city of Tikrit was takin over by ISIS back in 2014.
In the early days of the Iraqi Security Force advance on Mosul, nearly 100 corpses were discovered decapitated in a mass grave. The corpses were all civilians who were killed in the early days of ISIS’s occupation given the decomposition of the bodies.
ISIS has taken steps to ensure many of its crimes cannot be uncovered by booby trapping mass graves. The graves are fraught with mines and other explosives to make excavation as difficult as possible. “De-mining organizations are overloaded trying to decontaminate areas for returns, so this is just not going to be the priority,” senior Iraq researcher at Human Rights Watch, Belkis Wille, elaborated to The Los Angeles Times.
Families of victims are anxious to find the bodies of loved ones, and risk contaminating the graves for war crimes investigatations in the future. Many families need to find the bodies to get an official death certificate in order to claim benefits from the Iraqi government.