BAGHDAD — Iraqi forces discovered a mass grave on Sunday after retaking an area from the Islamic State group near Fallujah, where the jihadists are using thousands of civilians as human shields.
Growing numbers of families reaching camps south of Fallujah told horrific accounts of how IS shot at them as they fled, but there was still no escape for the tens of thousands believed trapped in the city centre.
In Saqlawiya, northwest of Fallujah, Iraqi forces found a burial site thought to contain the bodies of around 400 people, most of them soldiers executed by IS in 2014 and 2015.
"The security forces of the federal police, the army and the Hashed al-Shaabi found a mass grave in the Shuhada neighbourhood during a mine clearing operation," a police colonel said.
He said most of the victims, whose remains were being transferred for identification, appeared to have been shot in the head.
"The mass grave also includes civilians executed by Daesh (IS) on various charges such as spying or breaking the organisation’s rules," said Rajeh Barakat, a member of the provincial council of Anbar, where Fallujah is located.
Iraqi forces launched a vast operation on May 22-23 to retake Fallujah, which lies only 50 kilometres (30 miles) west of Baghdad and is one of the jihadists’ most emblematic bastions.
The first phase of the operation was aimed at sealing the siege on the city by cutting the jihadist group’s supply lines in outlying areas, including in Saqlawiya. — AFP