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Iraqi investigators examine mass grave site near Mosul

BASHIQA, Iraq: Iraqi Kurdish forces have seized the town of Bashiqa near Mosul from Daesh, an official said Tuesday.
Capturing Bashiqa would be a final step in securing the eastern approaches to Mosul, three weeks into an offensive by Iraqi forces to retake the country’s second city.
Iraqi troops have also seized the town of Hamam Al-Alil, south of Mosul, and Tuesday investigators carried out an initial examination of a mass grave site discovered in the area.
Bashiqa was under the “complete control” of Kurdish peshmerga forces, Jabbar Yawar, secretary general of the Kurdish regional ministry responsible for the fighters, said.
“Our forces are clearing mines and sweeping the city,” Yawar said.
An AFP correspondent on the outskirts of Bashiqa said clashes were ongoing, with three air strikes hitting the town and gunfire and an explosion heard.
The peshmerga said there were still some suicide bombers and snipers there, and that about five percent of Bashiqa remained under terrorists’ control.
Iraqi forces have been tightening the noose around Mosul since launching the offensive on October 17, with elite troops last week breaching city limits.
Iraqi forces scored another victory against Daesh on Monday by establishing full control over Hamam Al-Alil, about 15 km from the edge of Mosul and the last town of note on the way to the city from the south.
They said a mass grave was found at an agricultural college in the area, with the offensive’s Joint Operations Command saying “100 bodies of citizens with their heads cut off” had been uncovered.
An AFP journalist Tuesday said body parts and bones were visible among rubbish dumped there.
Men in Iraqi security forces uniforms used ropes to pull two bodies, one headless, from the grave, and also removed a decapitated head.
“Today, the team conducted an initial examination,” said Mohammed Taher Al-Tamimi, an Iraqi Cabinet official.
Al-Tamimi said the victims had been blindfolded with their hands and feet bound.
He said around 25 bodies were initially visible, but investigators believed there “very large numbers” of corpses there.
Dhiyab Tareq, a 32-year-old from the area, said he had heard shots when Daesh carried out executions at the site.
“I was sitting close to the door and heard the gunshots,” Tareq said, adding that the next day Daesh members boasted about killing security forces members.
Daesh’s rule has been marked by atrocities including mass beheadings and other executions that it has documented in photos and videos that its supporters share online.
The United Nations said Tuesday that terrorists’ “forcibly moved about 1,500 families from Hamam Al-Alil town to Mosul airport” on November 4.
The UN has warned for weeks that Daesh is making civilians living in districts around Mosul move into the city.

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