Home / World News / Sinkhole 'mass grave' for Islamic State victims

Sinkhole 'mass grave' for Islamic State victims

A sinkhole – once a local curiosity in Iraq – has reportedly been turned into a mass grave for up to 4,000 victims of Islamic State killers.

Local residents living near the Khasfah – the Arabic word for a sinkhole – have described how IS transformed the area into a “place of death” after capturing it in 2014.

Villagers say the sinkhole, outside Mosul, was used as an execution site and a mass grave where bodies were dumped.

'Revenge mission' for Iraqi forces liberating Mosul
Video:On the frontline in the fight against Islamic State

Mohamed Yassin, 56, who lives in nearby Hammam al Alil, said: “They would bring them blindfolded, their hands tied behind their backs.

“The Khasfah would be in front of them, they would make them kneel down, shoot them in the head and push them in.

“People became afraid of the place, it became a place of death, a place where you’d be executed.”

Mr Yassin said he saw executions take place there on at least six occasions, and most of those killed were police officers, soldiers or government workers.

Hussein Khalaf Hilal said IS took him to the site to frighten him
Image Caption:Hussein Khalaf Hilal said IS took him to the site to frighten him

Hussein Khalaf Hilal, 73, said he was taken to the site by IS fighters who accused him of breaking their religious rules.

“They came to the house, they blindfolded me, tied my hands behind my back and took me away in a car with blacked out windows,” he said.

“They took me there because they wanted me to pledge allegiance, to frighten me.”

He said IS fighters marched people into the pit after forcing them to take pills.

Iraqi forces are battling to retake Mosul from Islamic State
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“They would line them up, 10 by 10, 15 by 15,” he said.

He was eventually spared and taken to prison instead.

Belkis Wille, senior Iraq researcher for Human Rights Watch (HRW), said she heard about the site being used for mass killings about a year ago.

Prisoners had said their IS guards told them they were taking detainees to the Khasfah to be killed.

Iraqi soldiers continue the advance into western Mosul
Video:Iraqi troops are continuing to push into western Mosul

HRW examined satellite imagery that suggested the sinkhole was filling up, and local residents said IS had piled rusted car parts and shipping containers into it, before bulldozing earth on top.

Ms Wille said it was impossible at this stage to know how many bodies were buried there.

“The figure that we hear over and over again in interviews is 4,000,” she said.

Iraqi security forces fighting to recapture the western half of Mosul have now retaken control of the area containing the sinkhole.

Displaced Iraqis escape the fighting in Mosul
Image Caption:Displaced Iraqis escape the fighting in Mosul

Their advance is continuing with Iraqi forces saying they have reached the city’s southernmost bridge, a key step in efforts to defeat IS.

“The Rapid Response force and the federal police have liberated Jawsaq neighbourhood and now control the western end of the fourth bridge,” said Brigadier General Yahya Rasoo.

According to United Nations figures, about 750,000 civilians are believed to be trapped in their houses in the west of the city.

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