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  1. ITV Report

Mass graves left by Islamic State in Iraq contain up to 12,000 bodies, UN says

The site of a mass grave, believed to contain the bodies of Iraqi soldiers killed by Islamic State Credit: AP

More than 200 mass graves containing between 6,000 and 12,000 bodies have been found in Iraq from the so-called Islamic State's three-year reign, UN investigators said on Tuesday.

The 202 graves verified by investigators dot northern Iraq and are a "legacy of ISIL's terror," according to a joint report by the UN mission to Iraq and the UN office for human rights.

Findings from the grave sites can be used as evidence of the group's crimes, they said.

The graves date from 2014 to 2017 when the militant group, sometimes known by the acronym ISIL, ruled some of Iraq's largest cities and towns.

As the militants swept through Iraq and neighbouring Syria, they killed and captured members of the security forces en masse, expelled or killed minorities, and enslaved women from the Yazidi sect. The UN says the widespread violations could amount to genocide.

File photo of Sirwan Jalal, director of Mass Graves for the Kurdish Regional Government, pointing to an image of the site of a mass grave Credit: AP

Several graves found in Iraq's Salahuddin province contain the remains of victims of the 2014 Camp Speicher massacre, when the militants killed around 1,700 Iraqi security forces and army cadets.

In some cases, the militants dropped their victims or the bodies of their victims in wells or sinkholes instead of digging graves.

Investigators said there could be thousands of bodies in the Khasfa sinkhole south of Mosul, the largest city once under IS control.

A photo released by the the Mass Graves Directorate of the Kurdish Regional Government shows a human skull in a mass grave Credit: AP

Iraqi authorities have exhumed the remains of 1,258 victims from 28 graves, according to the UN.

It urged authorities to identify the remains of all gravesite victims and seek justice for families. It said bodies should be preserved and returned to families.

Iraq's Mass Graves Directorate and Martyrs' Commission could not be reached for immediate comment.

Iraq declared victory over IS in December last year, but the militants still control pockets of territory just across the border in Syria, and continue to claim responsibility for abductions and bomb blasts around the country.