BAGHDAD, April 20, (Agencies): Iraqi police on Tuesday unearthed two mass graves in the western city of Ramadi, with bodies of about 40 people killed by Islamic State militants during the militant Sunni group’s reign of terror in the city, officials said.
The officials said IS militants who were captured and arrested after Iraqi forces routed the extremists from the Anbar provincial capital led authorities to the site of the mass graves, inside the city’s soccer stadium. Bodies of women and children were among those found in the two graves, along with bodies of men in civilian clothes, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.
Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar, fell to IS in May, a major setback for U.S.-allied Iraqi forces at the time. It was liberated in December.
There have been many instances of mass graves being uncovered in territory wrested from IS militants in Iraq and Syria — thousands of people have been killed in summary and extrajudicial killings by the Sunni militants and the graves have been a dark testimony to the group’s brutality.
In June 2014, some 1,700 Iraqi soldiers were captured and then killed by IS militants when they overran Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit. At the time, the soldiers were trying to flee from Camp Speicher, a nearby army base where they were deployed.
Mass graves with hundreds of Iraqi soldiers’ bodies were found after the city was liberated in April 2015. In December, the UN human rights office in Iraq said it received reports of 16 mass graves discovered near the town of Sinjar after it was liberated from the Islamic State group the previous month.
Among the first mass graves uncovered in Sinjar — within days of IS forces being pushed out of the town — was one near the town’s center that has been estimated to contain the bodies of 78 elderly women, and another, about 15 kilometers (10 miles) outside of Sinjar, with between 50 and 60 bodies of men, women and children
The UN uses the term mass grave to refer to a location where three or more victims of what the world body defines as extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions are buried — not those who have been killed in combat, attacks such as bombings or armed confrontation.
Meanwhile, Danish lawmakers on Tuesday approved a plan to commit F-16 warplanes, a transport aircraft and 400 military personnel to expand the country’s fight against the Islamic State jihadist group from Iraq to Syria. In a 90-19 vote, only three small leftist parties opposed the proposal, which was announced last month by Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen. “The brutal and ruthless terrorist organisation IS should meet a powerful response from the outside world,” Rasmussen said in a statement. Starting from “mid 2016”, the Danish contribution will consist of seven F-16 warplanes — four of them operational at any one time — a C130J transport aircraft and 400 military personnel, including 60 special forces troops. Nikolaj Villumsen, a lawmaker for the leftist Red Green Alliance, said during the parliamentary debate that Denmark was “once again on its way into a misguided war that could destabilise Iraq and Syria further”.
The US heads an international coalition that is carrying out strikes against IS and also providing training and assistance to forces fighting the jihadists in both Iraq and neighbouring Syria. Denmark is a member of the coalition but previously only had a mandate to intervene in Iraq. From October 2014 until October 2015, it had seven F-16s fighting IS in Iraq. Denmark currently has around 120 troops stationed at the Al-Asad air base some 180 kilometres (110 miles) northwest of Baghdad, where they have been training Iraqi soldiers and Kurdish security forces.