Iraq says 2,700 missing since ISIS onslaught in June

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Published Monday, December 15, 2014

At least 2,700 people, mostly soldiers, are missing as a result of attacks by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group in Iraq, the Iraqi human rights ministry said on Monday.

More than half of those registered as missing by the government are soldiers who were at the Speicher base which the jihadists captured six months ago near Tikrit.

"The number of missing from Speicher base has reached 1,660, from Badush prison 487, in addition to 554 from other areas, including 38 women," the ministry said in a statement.

Badush is a prison outside the northern city of Mosul, which ISIS has used as its main hub in Iraq since it launched an offensive in June and captured large swathes of territory in the country.

The ministry said those numbers are based on applications filed by relatives and subsequent checking with the relevant ministries.

"The number of missing is likely higher than this," ministry spokesman Kamel al-Amin told AFP, since some families who have been displaced by the violence or live in areas under jihadis control were not able to report a missing relative.

Amin added that the ministry had asked the families of those confirmed to be missing to provide DNA samples "in order to identify victims who might later be found in mass graves."

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), ISIS gunmen executed up to 600 inmates from Badush prison on June 10, forcing them to kneel along a nearby ravine before pushing them in and setting fire to the bodies.

The following day, they seized the Speicher base and claimed to have executed 1,700 troops.

HRW was able to find evidence that at least 560 had been killed.

Major attacks on army bases in the western province in September are also believed to have left hundreds of troops dead or missing.

The UN released a 29-page study early October, listing a litany of gross abuses and violations of international humanitarian law being perpetrated by ISIS and associated armed groups "with an apparent systematic and widespread character" in Iraq.

Among them were attacks on civilians, including executions and looting, as well as the murder of captured army soldiers and officials.

In August, the report said, ISIS took 450-500 women and girls to the Tal Afar citadel in Iraq's Nineveh region where "150 unmarried girls and women, predominantly from the Yazidi and Christian communities, were reportedly transported to Syria, either to be given to ISIS fighters as a reward or to be sold as sex slaves."

The fate of the girls remains unknown.

HRW released a report early November saying that ISIS militants in Syria, where they also also declared a caliphate in territories under their control, forced children as young as 14 to watch videos of beheadings and beat them with cables during six months of captivity.

The militants abducted a group of children on May 29 as they returned to the Syrian town of Kobane after taking school exams in the city of Aleppo. It freed the final 25 hostages on October 29.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)


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