A mass graveyard containing 500 gravestones believed to belong to Islamic State [IS] militants killed in clashes with Iraq armed forces was uncovered near Fallujah on Tuesday.
The graveyard was found by Iraqi forces sweeping through the area near the town of al-Saqlawiya, northwest of Fallujah in Anbar province, the Iraqi ministry of defence said.
The cemetery contains the graves of Iraqi and foreign militants killed fighting for IS in 2016, the ministry said, according to Rudaw.
Photographs of the graves, which were released by the Iraqi ministry of defence, showed some of the names on the gravestones belong to women.
Baghdad’s forces launched a major drive last month to oust IS group from west Mosul, a battle that has pushed nearly 100,000 people to flee their homes in less than three weeks, according to the International Organization for Migration [IOM].
IS overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in 2014, but Iraqi forces backed by US-led airstrikes have since retaken most of the territory they lost.
Between February 25 and March 15, more than 97,000 people have been displaced from west Mosul, the IOM said on its official Twitter account on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Iraqi forces said they captured Mosul train station – once one of the country’s main rail hubs.
The forces have now taken back a series of neighbourhoods as well as sites, including the city’s airport, the Mosul museum and the provincial government headquarters.
Some, including the museum which was vandalised by IS, have been heavily damaged, and it is likely to be a long time before trains again run to and from Mosul.
Lieutenant General Raed Shakir Jawdat, the commander of the federal police, said his forces have retaken the train station and a nearby bus station, both of which are southwest of Mosul’s Old City.
Meanwhile, security forces are searching for IS militants trying to sneak out of the city among civilians, and according to Human Rights Watch, more than 1,200 men and boys suspected of IS ties are being held in “horrendous conditions” at sites south of Mosul.
“The Iraqi interior ministry is holding at least 1,269 detainees, including boys as young as 13, without charge in horrendous conditions and with limited access to medical care at… makeshift prisons,” HRW said in a report on Tuesday.
“At least four prisoners have died, in cases that appear to be linked to lack of proper medical care and poor conditions and two prisoners’ legs have been amputated, apparently because of lack of treatment for treatable wounds,” it said.
The facilities are in Qayyarah and Hamam al-Alil, said HRW, which visited some of them earlier this month.
The rights watchdog said the makeshift prisons were under the authority of the interior ministry intelligence service, which is interrogating people handed over by security forces fighting IS.
Iraq was under heavy pressure to improve its procedures for the Mosul operation after people reported torture and other abuses during screening of those who fled Fallujah, which Baghdad’s forces retook from IS last year.