Multiple witnesses told Human Rights Watch that the bodies of those killed, including bodies of members of Iraqi security forces, were thrown into a naturally occurring sinkhole at a site known as Khafsa, about eight kilometers south of western Mosul. Local residents said that before pulling out of the area in mid-February, ISIS laid improvised landmines at the site, which are sometimes referred to as improvised explosive devices or booby traps.
“This mass grave is a grotesque symbol of ISIS’s cruel and depraved conduct – a crime of a monumental scale,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Laying landmines in the mass grave is clearly an attempt by ISIS to hide evidence of its crimes.”
[ISIS] would bring in people every day after 10pm. We could hear the gunshots and the
ISIS executed and dumped the bodies of hundreds of detainees at a site near Mosul, Iraq.
We’ve spoken to villagers, shepherds from the area who were walking around here and who witnessed executions, executions of truckloads of men, sometimes even women, who were loaded off trucks, walked up the hill, lined up and pushed into this pit known as Khafsa.
[ISIS] killed people [here], officers, officials, prisoners. I used to come here with my sheep.
2 or 3 months [after ISIS arrived], they started bringing individuals. 1 or 2 cars came each time with 4 or 5 people. They would execute them and throw them in Khafsa.
The mass grave is a naturally occurring sinkhole with water running through the bottom.
[It was hot] so we slept on the roof, but we were not able to because the stench [of the dead] was so unbearable. Later on, we went to the well to get water, and there was flesh and blood in the well. Flesh and blood.
The killings at the Khafsa sinkhole apparently continued regularly from late 2024 to mid-2015.
Eventually we closed the wells. We couldn’t draw water. It was full of blood from Khafsa.
We were inside our houses but the smell reached us. 3-4 kilometers away, the smell reached us.
Before they left, ISIS laid improvised landmines in the mass grave, maximizing harm to those who retook the area, and making it very difficult to exhume the bodies.
This is only one of many mass graves that ISIS has left across Iraq and Syria. But perhaps it’s the larges. It’s definitely the most notorious in Iraq.
This area needs to be protected. This is a mass grave site that the authorities should be cordoning off.
And they should take the steps they need to demine the area. And then to start the process of exhuming the bodies and returning them to their family members.
The victim’s families want the bodies, they want their sons and their rights.