Islamic State militants carried out a mass killing of hundreds of Iraqi prison inmates when they seized the country’s second-largest city of Mosul in June, according to an international rights group.
Human Rights Watch said 600 male Shiite inmates from Badoosh prison outside Mosul were forced to kneel along the edge of a ravine and shot with automatic weapons.
The New York-based watchdog said the Shiite prisoners were separated from several hundred Sunnis and a small number of Christians who were later set free. The statement was based on interviews with survivors.
Also in June, IS claimed it had “executed” about 1,700 soldiers and military personnel captured from Camp Speicher outside Tikrit city.
Human Rights Watch said the report was based on interviews with 15 Shiite prisoners who survived the massacre.
A number of Kurdish and Yazidi inmates were also killed, while between 50 and 100 men accused of falsely claiming to be Sunnis were taken to an unknown place, they said.
The prisoners had been serving sentences for a range of crimes, from murder and assault to non-violent offences.
Before separating them, the gunmen herded up to 1,500 inmates on to trucks and drove them to an isolated stretch of desert about two kilometres from the prison, the survivors said. After taking several hundred away in trucks, they forced the Shiites to form a line along the ravine edge and then count their number in the line before spraying them with machine-gun fire.
“A bullet hit my head and I fell to the ground, and that’s when I felt another bullet hit my arm,” one survivor said. “I was unconscious for about five minutes. One person was shot in the head, in the forehead, it (the bullet) went out the other side, and he fell on top of me,” the statement quoted him as saying.
Before the shooting started, he added, he kissed the men on each side “because we knew we were going to die”, and “after we said goodbye to each other, I took my daughter’s picture and kissed it, and I prayed to God to save me for her, because I have no one else”.
Between 30 and 40 prisoners survived, most by rolling into the valley and pretending to be dead, or from being shielded by the bodies of other prisoners, they said. Several wounded men died while trying to crawl or stagger away.
The gunmen then set fire around the ravine and flames spread to the corpses. HRW withheld the names of the survivors to protect them from possible retaliation.
HRW’s senior terrorism researcher Letta Tayler said: “The gruesome details of IS’s mass murder of prison inmates make it impossible to deny the depravity of this extremist group. People of every ethnicity and creed should condemn these horrific tactics, and press Iraqi and international authorities to bring those responsible to justice.”
Elsewhere, an Iraqi official said authorities had found the bodies of 48 Sunni tribesmen killed by IS in the western province of Anbar.
Faleh al-Issawi, a councillor in the Anbar provincial government, said the bodies were found in a mass grave outside the town of Hit.
He said they were tribal fighters allied with the government and members of the security forces who were rounded up from villages around Hit after IS militants seized the area in early October.
Most of the tribal fighters came from the Al Bu Nimr tribe, he said.
It came the day after the bodies of 30 Sunni fighters killed by IS were found in Hit, about 85 miles west of Baghdad.