Iraq – Mass grave opened to identify victims of one of ISIS’s worst crimes


The remains of 123 people were taken from a mass grave in the north of the country. ISIS killed nearly 583 people there.

Families of the missing are rushing to donate blood so that it can be compared to DNA traces collected at the site.


Iraqi authorities announced on Sunday that they had pulled out of a mass grave the remains of 123 victims of one of the Islamic State’s (IS) worst massacres to compare them with samples taken from relatives of the missing. For weeks, in Baghdad and elsewhere, dozens of families have donated blood in an attempt to identify the 583 bodies found in this huge mass grave near Badouch prison, not far from Mosul in northern Iraq.


There, in 2014, jihadists took 583 detainees, mostly Shia Muslims, in trucks to a ravine before shooting them down, one of the worst crimes of the group accused of “genocide” by the UN which left more 200 mass graves in Iraq where up to 12,000 bodies are believed to be.

“Thousands of families are still waiting to know what happened to their loved one,” Najm al-Joubbouri, governor of the province of Nineveh, where Badouch is located, told AFP.

A feat

Earlier this week, AFP had met in Baghdad’s forensic medicine Abbas Mohammed, whose son Mohannad had been arrested in 2005 by the Americans before landing in Badouch. “I need an answer which appeases me after 17 years passed without knowing if my son was alive or dead”, he had then explained.

Iraq, which still brings to light mass graves of Saddam Hussein’s regime, has been working for years to identify the remains of various violent episodes in its history. Each time, the DNA of the victims is taken from mass graves or natural cavities, before being compared to blood samples from survivors.

Finding traces of DNA on remains exposed to rains, fires and other fighting for years is a feat, repeat forensic specialists. On Sunday again, in Badouch, Saleh Ahmed, from the Martyrs Commission, explained to AFP that “working conditions are difficult”. In the midst of about thirty employees who were busy on the site, he said: “we are working in overwhelming heat” not very conducive to the preservation of the remains. “There are tangled bodies and snakes and scorpions all over the place.”


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