This is a bone chilling account of what an ISIS massacre is like. You’re warned… VERY GRAPHIC CONTENT.
These satellite images show the shocking extent of the industrial-scale murder carried out by ISIS as researchers mapped out 72 mass graves across Iraq and Syria containing thousands of bodies.
Aerial photos offer the clearest look yet at massacres such as the one at Badoush Prison in Mosul, northern Iraq that left 600 male inmates dead.
A patch of scraped earth and tire tracks show the likely killing site, according to pictures obtained by the imagery intelligence firm AllSource Analysis.
One prisoner, who survived by playing dead, revealed how ISIS butchers forced hundreds to kneel on the edge of a ravine and started shooting with a machine gun before one fanatic said ‘we’re going to eat well tonight’.
The Associated Press says it has documented and mapped 72 mass graves with many more expected to be uncovered as ISIS territory shrinks.
In Syria, AP has obtained locations for 17 mass graves, including one with the bodies of hundreds of members of a single tribe all but exterminated when IS extremists took over their region.
For at least 16 of the Iraqi graves, most in territory too dangerous to excavate, officials do not even guess the number of dead.
In others, the estimates are based on memories of traumatised survivors, Islamic State propaganda and what can be gleaned from a cursory look at the earth. Still, even the known victims buried are staggering – from 5,200 to more than 15,000.
Sinjar mountain is dotted with mass graves, some in territory clawed back from IS after the group’s onslaught against the Yazidi minority in August 2014; others in the deadly no man’s land that has yet to be secured.
AP describes how one man crouched in a creek for hours listening to the men in his family die during one massacre.
ALL THEY COULD DO WAS WATCH THE SLAUGHTER
On the other side of the mountain, another survivor peered through binoculars as the handcuffed men of neighbouring villages were shot and then buried by a waiting bulldozer.
For six days the man watched as the extremists filled one grave after another with his friends and relatives.
Between them, the two scenes of horror on Sinjar mountain contain six burial sites and the bodies of more than 100 people, just a small fraction of the mass graves ISIS extremists have scattered across Iraq and Syria.
The bodies of Talal Murat’s father, uncles and cousins lie beneath the rubble of the family farm, awaiting a time when it is safe for surviving relatives to return to the place where the men were gunned down.
On Sinjar’s other flank, Rasho Qassim drives daily past the graves holding the bodies of his two sons.
The road is in territory long since seized back, but the five sites are untouched, roped off and awaiting the money or the political will for excavation, as the evidence they contain is scoured away by the wind and baked by the sun.
‘We want to take them out of here. There are only bones left. But they said “No, they have to stay there, a committee will come and exhume them later,” said Qassim, standing at the edge of the flimsy fence surrounding one site, where his two sons are buried. ‘It has been two years but nobody has come.’
ISIS made no attempt to hide its atrocities. In fact it boasted of them. But proving what United Nations officials and others have described as an ongoing genocide – and prosecuting those behind it – will be complicated as the graves deteriorate.
‘We see clear evidence of the intent to destroy the Yazidi people,’ said Naomi Kikoler, who recently visited the region for the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.
‘There’s been virtually no effort to systematically document the crimes perpetrated, to preserve the evidence, and to ensure that mass graves are identified and protected.’
Then there are the graves still out of reach. ISIS atrocities extend well outside the Yazidi region in northern Iraq.
Of the 72 mass graves documented by AP, the smallest contains three bodies; the largest is believed to hold thousands, but no one knows for sure.
On the northern flank of Sinjar mountain, five grave sites ring a desert crossroads. It is here that the young men of Hardan village are buried, under thistles and piles of cracked earth. They were killed in the bloody ISIS offensive of August 2014.
Through his binoculars, Arkan Qassem watched it all. His village, Gurmiz, is just up the slope from Hardan, giving a clear view over the plain below.
When the jihadis swept over the area, everyone in Gurmiz fled up the mountaintop for refuge.
Then Arkan and nine other men returned to their village with light weapons to try to defend their homes.
Instead, all they could do was watch the slaughter below. Arkan witnessed the militants set up checkpoints, preventing residents from leaving. Women and children were taken away.
Then the killings began. The first night, Arkan saw the militants line up a group of handcuffed men in the headlights of a bulldozer at an intersection, less than half a mile down the slope from Gurmiz. They gunned the men down, then the bulldozer plowed the earth over their bodies.
Over six days, Arkan and his comrades watched helplessly as the fighters brought out three more groups of men – several dozen each, usually with hands bound – to the crossroads and killed them.