Kurdish forces in north-western Iraq have successfully wrested control of the town of Sinjar from ISIS. The Kurdistan security council claims that a total of twenty-eight villages were recaptured following Operation Free Sinjar and more than 200 sq km (77 sq miles) brought within its control. However, celebrations were tempered by the discovery of a mass grave. Located east of the main settlement, it contains over seventy members of the country’s Yazidi minority, according to local sources.
Local people, including Mahma Xelil, the town’s mayor, claim to have seen the site and observed fragments of hair and bone, as well as scattered personal effects, such as keys and local currency. They believe that the remains belong to older women from a nearby village, Kocho, who were killed around the time that ISIS took control of the area in August 2014. It is believed that the younger women became victims of sexual slavery.
A number of local men told reporters of how the younger women had been separated out, with the older ones led behind an institute in the Solagh area east of Sinjar. Gunfire was then heard and the women were never seen again, the men said. ISIS has ruthlessly targeted the Yazidis, whose religion contains elements of a number of local belief systems, including Zoroastrianism. The word genocide has been used to describe the ISIS approach to the group. Mayor Xelil has said that experts will be brought in to examine the site, which is one of several Yazidi mass graves to have been found since ISIS attacked and took control of the area last year.