Iraq holds funeral for ISIS victims exhumed from mass grave

Dozens of burials have been discovered in parts of Iraq since defeat of ISIS in 2017

Iraqi military vehicles carry coffins of the dead on Tuesday. AFP
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A funeral was held in Iraq on Tuesday for 78 people who were murdered by ISIS outside the northern city of Mosul during the extremists' takeover of the city in 2014.

The victims, were among the 605 recovered from a mass grave over the past two years, said Dhia Kareem, head of the Mass Graves Department at the state-run Foundation of Martyrs.

They had been prisoners in Badush jail before it was stormed by ISIS gunmen.

“The process of opening the graves took more than two years and resulted in the removal of 605 bodies,” Mr Kareem said in a statement. He added 401 body parts and 204 full bodies were recovered.

“They were handed over to the Medical Legal Directorate for identification as they had been exposed to events like floods and climate change,” he said.

Only 78 bodies have been identified through DNA tests so far, and a funeral procession was held for them at Baghdad’s Martyr Monument.

Wrapped in Iraqi flags, the wooden coffins were carried on military pickups.

Grieving families held pictures of their loved ones and said their goodbyes.

People at the funeral of Shiite inmates killed by ISIS when the terrorists overran Badoush prison in Nineveh in 2014. Reuters

When ISIS seized Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, and other strongholds in the north and west of the country in June 2014, the militants carried out killings of hundreds of members of the security forces and civilians.

Among them were the inmates from Badush prison outside Mosul.

Survivors told the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) in October 2014 that gunmen moved up to 1,500 inmates on to pickups and drove them to an isolated stretch of desert about two kilometres from the prison.

An HRW report based on interviews with 15 survivors said the terrorists forced those who were Shiite to kneel on the edge of a ravine before shooting them dead with machineguns.

Relatives say prayers at the coffins containing DNA-identified remains of inmates from Badush prison, killed by ISIS in 2014. AFP

They were separated from several hundred Sunnis and a small number of Christians who were later set free. A number of Kurdish and Yazidi prisoners were also killed, the report said.

The prisoners were serving sentences for crimes ranging from murder and assault to non-violent offences.

Between 30 and 40 survived, mostly by rolling into the valley and pretending to be dead, or being shielded by the bodies of others, it said.

Several wounded men died while trying to crawl away.

Gunmen then lit fires around the ravine.

Iraqi men bury the remains of some of those exhumed from mass graves, in Najaf. Reuters

During that time, ISIS murdered about 1,700 soldiers and military personnel captured from Camp Speicher outside Tikrit city, north of Baghdad.

Thousands of Yazidis were also killed or enslaved.

The extremist group captured large parts of Iraq and Syria in 2014 and declared it a 'caliphate'.

Backed by a US-led coalition, Iraq announced victory over ISIS in late 2017 after three years of fighting that left many of the occupied cities in ruins.

Dozens of mass graves have since been discovered in various parts of Iraq, mainly around the Yazidi hometown of Sinjar.

Iraqi officials said identifying the dead by their remains could take years.

Updated: May 16, 2023, 6:39 PM