The grim discovery comes as government-backed Iraqi forces liberate territories occupied by the 'Islamic State' group. Extremists slaughtered thousands of Yazidi men and turned the women and girls into sex slaves.
Iraqi paramilitary forces said Saturday that they had uncovered a mass grave with the bodies of hundreds of people who were executed by "Islamic State" (IS) militants at Badush prison near Mosul.
It is the latest discovery in Iraq as the country's paramilitary forces continue to take back territory captured by IS three years ago. Iraqi forces have uncovered dozens of mass graves containing hundreds, if not thousands, of bodies, as they push back IS forces after more than two years of heavy fighting, including the current initiative to retake Mosul.
IS militants reportedly slaughtered as many as 600 people after taking control of Badush in 2014. The militants are also accused of kidnapping hundreds of Yazidi women and holding them at the prison.
The Hashed al-Shaabi, an umbrella group of pro-government fighters made up primarily of Iranian-backed Shiite militias, were among the forces that recaptured the prison from jihadists, according to the Iraqi military.
Hashed forces found "a large mass grave containing the remains of around 500 civilian prisoners in [Badush] prison who were executed by [IS] gangs after they controlled the prison during their occupation of Mosul," the military said Saturday.
It was not immediately clear how the Hashed reached that figure, which could not be independently verified, but it is in keeping with accounts of IS militants killing hundreds of inmates from Badush.
Lamiya Bashar was forced into sexual slavery by IS militants, and badly injured by a landmine while escaping her captors
Mass graves and sex slaves
Human Rights Watch has reported that IS gunmen executed as many as 600 inmates at the prison on June 10, 2014, forcing them to kneel along a nearby ravine and then shooting them with assault rifles, an account also contained in a United Nations report.
Most of those executed were believed to have been members of Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority, whom IS considers heretics.
IS abuses at the jail extended beyond the execution of its inmates. Iraqi lawmaker Vian Dakhil said in 2014 that the jihadists held more than 500 Yazidi women at Badush.
Members of the Yazidi religious minority were victims of a vicious campaign of executions, kidnapping and rape. The jihadists killed the men and used the women and girls as sex slaves.
This is not the first time a mass grave has been uncovered on territory formally held by IS. Iraqi forces found one grave last November that appeared to have more than two dozen bodies. It was in the Hamam al-Alil area south of Mosul.
Earlier this year Iraqi forces found a sinkhole known as the Khasfah, which could be the largest mass grave of the war with IS.
Local residents said IS used it as an execution site and a mass grave where they would dispose of victims.
bik/jlw (AFP, dpa)