The Lalish temple and tomb in Mount Sinjar, Iraq. The Kurdish Yazidi holy place is not far from where a mass grave was discovered Friday. (Amgad Ellia / CC BY-SA 2.0)

A mass grave thought to contain the remains of as many as 80 Yazidi women murdered by Islamic State has been discovered near the Iraqi town of Sinjar. The grave was unearthed following an offensive Friday against the terrorist group by Kurdish forces. According to the U.N., abuses against the Yazidi minority, a religious sect whose beliefs combine elements of several ancient Middle Eastern religions, may constitute an attempted genocide.

Several mass Yazidi graves have already been uncovered in the area north of the Sinjar Mountains, which was taken by Islamic State in December 2014. Most of Iraq’s Yazidi population still live in camps in the Kurdistan region.

Presently, more than 2,000 women remain in Islamic State captivity.

From Russian news site RT:

According to a local council member, the grave yet to be excavated, is thought to contain the bodies of 78 women, aged from 40 to around 80.

“It seems that the [IS] terrorist members only wanted young girls to enslave,” Miyasir Hajji told AFP. The jihadists have a reputation for using women as sex slaves – bought, sold and dumped.

The mayor of Sinjar and local Yazidis, who visited the site of the mass grave, told Reuters they saw clumps of hair, bones, money and keys, which they believed belonged to older women from the village of Kocho. The younger women were taken into sexual slavery, while the older ones were taken behind an institute in the Solagh area. Gunfire was heard shortly afterwards, according to locals who survived.

Badr Sleiman Taha, 24, from Kocho said his mother, aunt and grandmother were among those killed behind the institute.

“Death would have been better than what I felt when I saw that grave,” Taha told Reuters by phone from Sinjar.

The mayor of Sinjar, Mahma Xelil, said the grave would be left undisturbed for experts to analyze the remains and collect evidence for a case to recognize the atrocities inflicted on the Yazidi community as genocide. Several mass Yazidi graves have already been unearthed in the area north of Sinjar Mountain.

IS overran Sinjar in August last year, forcing thousands of Yazidis to flee to a mountain overlooking the town, where they were trapped by the jihadists. Islamic State systematically murdered and enslaved thousands of Yazidi minority members, exposing fugitive civilians to extreme conditions of blazing heat and lack of water. These developments became the official reason for the beginning of the US-led military campaign against Islamic State on August 8, 2014. Liberating Sinjar proved to be a real challenge.

Kurdish forces retook Sinjar town on Friday in a two-day offensive, supported by airstrikes from the US-led coalition. According to the Kurdistan Region’s Security council, 28 villages were liberated during “Operation Free Sinjar,” with over 200 square kilometers freed from IS control. They also managed to cut one of the militant’s main supply routes linking territory it holds in Iraq and Syria. Kurdish Peshmerga forces are currently working to clear bombs left by IS.

“Until now, we defused 45 bombs and a car bomb,” Sulaiman Saeed, who works in explosives disposal, told AFP.

“Bombs are widespread in houses,” he said, adding that some 20 tons of explosives were found in a bomb-making factory, while they also discovered 20 barrels of explosives.

Read more here.

–Posted by Roisin Davis

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