Iraqi authorities said they uncovered a new mass grave containing the remains of dozens of people in an area of northern Kirkuk province once held by the Islamic State group.
In this file photo taken on February 03, 2015 a member of the Yazidi minority searches in a wallet for clues, that might lead him to missing relatives in the remains of people killed by the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group. (Photo: VCG)
Security forces have discovered dozens of mass graves since they drove out IS in 2017 after three years of occupation of swathes of northern and western Iraq.
The United Nations said in November that more than 200 mass graves containing up to 12,000 victims had been found in Iraq that could hold vital evidence of war crimes by the jihadists.
The latest macabre discovery was made on Thursday in the Hawija district of Kirkuk province, Adel Ismail, a lieutenant-colonel in the Iraqi federal police force, told AFP.
He said the grave contained the remains of "innocent Iraqi civilians" who "were abducted and then killed" by the jihadists.
It was found in what appears to be a deep well in the Al-Abbassi area of Hawija.
"This is a mass grave used by Daesh," said Wani Firas, a resident of the area, using an Arabic-language acronym for IS.
"They used to come here, execute and throw (the victims) inside, and we used to watch and observe from nearby," he said.
The United Nations in Iraq (UNAMI) and its human rights office said last month they had documented a total of 202 mass graves in parts of western and northern Iraq held by IS between 2014 and 2017.
Of them, just 28 had been excavated and 1,258 bodies exhumed by Iraqi authorities, the report said.
Even more sites could be uncovered in the months to come, it warned, urging Iraqi authorities to properly preserve and excavate them to provide closure for victims' families
IS, which proclaimed a "caliphate" over swathes of Syria and Iraq in 2014, has now lost almost all the land it once controlled.
The jihadists have been held responsible for multiple atrocities during their reign of terror, including mass executions and decapitations.