Iraq’s Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitaries have discovered 10 mass graves in areas they recently captured from ISIS militants in the Shingal region. These areas previously have been inaccessible to families of the victims, as well as local and international investigators. Rudaw’s Tahseen Qasim in Shingal reported that the Hashd al-Shaabi located three mass graves in the Siba Sheikh Khidir complex in the south of Shingal and another two in the Girzirgski complex. Qasim added five more mass graves were also discovered in Kocho village. Representatives of the Kurdistan Regional Government have used satellite imagery to identify many areas that likely contain mass graves; however, because of safety concerns and political differences, Kurdish investigators have been unable to go actually to the sites on the ground even when survivors like Yezidis provide testimony and evidence. A Yezidi member of the Iraqi parliament announced yesterday through a statement on the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) website that Yezidis will soon open an online repository for the documentation of ISIS atrocities. “We will launch an online museum in the near future in order to be able to document all the atrocities committed against our community,” Vian Dakhil wrote in the statement. “Everyone could send their stories to the museum and their evidence will officially in one of the documenting agencies in the world will be registered”. Kocho, the hometown of the UN Goodwill Ambassador Nadia Murad, is a symbol of ISIS atrocities against Yezidi people. It is 18 kilometers south of Shingal town. Some 4,000 Yezidis used to inhabit it. When ISIS militants attacked Shingal and its surroundings in August 2014, they arrested thousands of Yezidis, many from the village of Kocho. Some of them were collectively killed in the village, other girls and women were sold or taken by ISIS members. The fates of thousands of Yezidis still remain unclear. “There have been over 40 mass graves found in Sinjar. I am horrified by the thought of the remains of six of my brothers in those graves, along with 700 other Yazidis who were summarily executed on the 15th of August 2014,” Murad said earlier this week. She partially laid the blame on the international community for what happened against the Yeizids by ISIS, explaining that in the period before the group besieged Kocho — prior to the massacre — Yezidis had asked for help. “Kocho is one of the capital crimes of 21st century”, she added. “It is with this in mind that I ask the liberating and security forces to preserve all findings, so there will be living evidence of the Islamic State crimes forever”. Shiite forces force announced it had reached the Syrian border on Monday. The Hashd al-Shaabi “made a miracle in the month of Ramadan” with their arrival at the Syrian border, Hadi al-Amiri, the secretary general of the Badr Organization, an influential military wing within the Hashd al-Shaabi, stated in an announcement published on their website. Last week the force declared it had cleared the town of Qairawan and its 13 villages and complexes, of which many were predominately Yezidi.
The mainly Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi forces are engaged in clashes with the ISIS militants in the Yezidi villages of Tal Banat and Tal Qasab, west of Mosul, as they continue their newest offensive for a third day in a row. They are working to recapture the remaining areas still under control of the extremist group near the Syrian border. The paramilitary force, backed by the Iraqi air force and the Iraqi army, had entered the Yezidi village of Tal Banat Sunday morning that fell to ISIS militants in late 2014, Rudaw’s Peshawa Pahlawi reported in the outskirts of the village. Dust and black smoke have been rising in the skylines of Tal Banat, located southeast of Shingal district. Rudaw’s Tahsin Qasim, also reporting on the ground, said that the paramilitary have surrounded Tal Qasab, another Yezidi village in the area. They Shiite force claimed Sunday afternoon that they have liberated Khilu village, west of Tal Qasab. The Shiite forces had declared that they liberated 10 villages on Saturday, including Tal Banat. They also reported that the main Shingal-Qairawan road fell to their forces the day before. With the advances made Saturday, the forces claim that they are surrounding Qairawan from three sides, to the north, east and south. The forces are now 3 km away from Qairawan, south of Shingal. The main objective for the fresh offesnive is Qairawan and Baa’j located west of Mosul and close to the Syrian border, commander of the Hashd al-Shaabi Mahdi al-Muhandis said on Friday. Muhandis added that the operation was to achieve its objectives within the “next 48 or 72 hours”.
Italy on April 19 called on Turkey to release a journalist arrested this month near the Syrian border while he was researching refugees. Gabriele Del Grande, 34, was clapped in cuffs by Turkish police on April 9 during interviews with people who had fled the war-torn neighboring country for a book he is writing on the conflict and the origins of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The foreign ministry in Rome said in a statement that Del Grande had managed to speak to his relatives by telephone on April 18 but that “this is obviously not enough”. European Parliament President Antonio Tajani, an Italian politician, also called for his immediate release.