Two mass graves with bodies of at least 18 members of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, thousands of whom have been killed and kidnapped by ISIL fighters, have been discovered in the northwestern part of the country.
Kurdish Peshmerga forces found the grave near the Shababit junction in northwestern Iraq while scouting the area as security forces fight to dislodge the rebels from Mosul, a local official said.
The graves contained bones and identity cards that appeared to have been covered with sandy earth by a bulldozer.
Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford, reporting from Makhmour, southeast of Mosul, said: “We understand that a medical team of Peshmerga are on their way to the area to try and establish how many bodies there are in those graves.”
Mahma Xelil, mayor of Sinjar, said the latest discovery brought the number of Yazidi mass graves found so far to 29, estimating the total would rise to more than 40 as the ISIL fighters are driven back further.
ISIL (also known as ISIS) systematically killed, captured and enslaved thousands of Yazidis in the summer of 2014 as they overran the Sinjar area, where many of them lived. UN investigators have said that constitutes genocide.
The Office of Kidnapped Affairs in Duhok, a department backed by the Kurdistan regional government, says about 3,500 Yazidis – many of them women and children – are believed to still live in areas controlled by ISIL.
Last Wednesday, 18 escaped from the town of Tal Afar in northern Iraq as Shia paramilitaries cut it off from the south and west.