BAGHDAD (AFP) - Iraqi paramilitary forces announced Saturday (March 11) that they had discovered a mass grave at Badush prison near Mosul containing the remains of hundreds of people executed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group.
ISIS reportedly killed up to 600 people after seizing the jail in 2014, and was also said to have held hundreds of kidnapped women from Iraq's Yazidi minority at the facility.
The Iraqi military said that forces from the Hashed al-Shaabi - an umbrella group of pro-government forces that are dominated by Iran-backed Shi'ite militias - were among the units that recaptured the prison from the extremists.
Hashed forces found "a large mass grave containing the remains of around 500 civilian prisoners in (Badush) prison who were executed by (ISIS) gangs after they controlled the prison during their occupation of Mosul," they said.
The Hashed did not say how they reached that figure, which could not be independently confirmed, but it is in keeping with a Human Rights Watch report of ISIS killings at Badush.
According to HRW, ISIS gunmen executed up to 600 inmates from Badush prison on June 10, 2014, forcing them to kneel along a nearby ravine and then shooting them with assault rifles.
Iraqi lawmaker Vian Dakhil also said that year that the extremists were holding more than 500 Yazidi women at Badush.
ISIS targeted the Yazidi religious minority in a brutal campaign of executions, kidnapping and rape, killing men and holding women and girls as sex slaves.
The mass graves were but the latest of dozens of such discoveries around Iraq that have been recaptured from ISIS, whose rule has been defined by extreme brutality.
Last months, Iraqi soldiers discovered two shallow graves in the western desert town of Rutba, about 390km west of Baghdad.
ISIS overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in 2014, but Iraqi forces backed by US-led air strikes have since regained most of the territory they lost.
Iraqi forces launched an operation to retake Mosul - the last ISIS-held city in Iraq - in October, recapturing its eastern side before setting their sights on its smaller but more densely populated west.