Government starts exploration of two mass graves in Nineveh

Nineveh, 2017 – Khasfa pit, about 20 km south of Mosul where thousands of ISIS ‎victims said to have been through – photo: AFP

Ammar Azeez - Nineveh

The Federal Government has started exploring and gathering information about the two mass graves in Khasfa and Alo Antar, but no date has been set to exhume the thousands of remains in them.

The mass graves Khasfa and Alo Antar are expected to contain the remains of thousands of the victims of ISIS.

On 18 January, the ‘Nineveh Martyrs Agency’ started surveying the two mass graves.

Muhammad Ali Askar, the agency’s director, told KirkukNow: “We have started exploring and gathering information about the mass graves in Khasfa and Alo Antar through a field team in cooperation with Baghdad and the Engineering Committee of Nineveh Police.”

Khasfa, known to locals as “the death pit,” is a sinkhole located about 20 km south of Mosul in an uninhabited area.

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Nineveh, January 2021 – a team exploring the Khasfa sinkhole – photo: Nineveh Martyrs Agency

“We can’t set a date for excavating the Khasfa pit and Alo Antar, but we are in constant communication with Baghdad and international organizations to set a suitable date,” Askar said.

He added that their work is in its first stage, and that after a survey and gathering minute information, they will send their findings in a report to Baghdad so that the government can allocate an appropriate budget for the excavation.

In March 2017, the Human Rights Watch wrote that according to local witnesses, ISIS has killed 3,000 people and dumped their bodies in the Khasfa pit, which has a diameter of 30 metres.

In August 2018, the Iraqi High Judicial Committee said that eight members of a family have confessed to have helped ISIS execute 370 people and dump their bodies in the sinkhole.

Ali Omar Ga’bo, a deputy of Nineveh’s governor, told KirkukNow: “We have written to Baghdad to request hastening the start of excavating the mass graves, especially the Khasfa pit and Alo Antar,” which he says are the largest mass graves.

 the government must not wait too long before excavating the graves

Alo Antar is located about six km from Tal Afar in an arid area in west Nineveh.

According to the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights, the mass grave in Alo Antar contains the remains of more than one thousand Turkmen and Ezidi victims of ISIS.

Shingal, Nineveh, March 2019 – family members of Ezidi victims of ISIS after the excavation of a mass grave – photo: KirkukNow

Ga’bo warns that the government must not wait too long before excavating the graves, because the identification of the remains will be more difficult as time passes due to decay and exposure to the elements.

Qusay Abbas, a member of the parliamentary committee for Martyrs and Political Prisoners, told KirkukNow: “The Nineveh administration and officials from the regions have severely neglected the issue of excavating the mass graves, while most of the mass graves are in Nineveh. The issue should have been handled earlier.”

Abbas says that they have asked for the mass graves to be excavated numerous times, but that they have only got promises without any action. “The government and the organizations have neglected the mass graves and don’t want to allocate budgets for their excavation.”

According to the Kurdistan Regional Government, there are 80 mass graves in Shingal. Only a small number of them have been excavated so far.

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