Iraq begins examining Yazidi mass graves remains

Iraqi Yazidi women mourn during the exhumation process of a mass grave in Iraq's northwestern region of Sinjar on March 15. (AP)
Updated 10 June 2019

Iraq begins examining Yazidi mass graves remains

  • Daesh militants slaughtered thousands of Yazidi men and boys, then abducted women and girls to be abused as sex slaves

BAGHDAD: The head of Iraq’s forensics administration said his office will begin DNA testing to identify the remains of 141 bodies found in mass graves, believed to contain the Yazidi victims of Daesh’s killing campaign five years ago.
Zaid Al-Yousef said the bodies were found in 12 graves located by Yazidi survivors in the Sinjar region in north Iraq.
Al-Yousef told The Associated Press on Sunday it will take until August to identify the remains.

Exhumation
The Iraqi government exhumed a mass grave containing victims of Daesh in the Yazidi stronghold left behind by Daesh in the northwestern Sinjar region, where militants brutally targeted the minority.
The exhumation, which was carried out with UN support, began on March 15 in the village of Kocho.
The militants rampaged across Sinjar in 2014, killing Yazidi men and abducting thousands of women and children. Many followers of the minority faith are still missing, after women were forced into sexual slavery and boys were indoctrinated in extremist ideology.
Over 70 mass graves have been discovered in Sinjar since it was liberated from Daesh in November 2015.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad, a Yazidi who escaped Daesh and became an outspoken advocate for her community, attended the ceremony in her home village of Kojo to mark the start of exhumations.
The UN, which is assisting with the forensic work, says the first opening of a mass grave in the region will help to shed light on the fate those inhabitants killed by Daesh militants.
Hundreds of men and women from the village are believed to have been executed by the militants when they took over the area in 2014.
The Yazidi people were targeted by the Daesh militants who swept across northern Iraq in 2014 and seized their bastion of Sinjar near the border with Syria.
Daesh militants slaughtered thousands of Yazidi men and boys, then abducted women and girls to be abused as sex slaves.
The UN has said Daesh actions could amount to genocide. It is investigating its atrocities across Iraq, it added.
Murad called at Friday’s event for Iraq’s central authorities and those in the Kurdistan region to “protect the mass graves” so that proof could be found of the “genocide of the Yazidis.”
“There will not be reconciliation with the Arab tribes of our region if their dignitaries don’t give the names of those who carried out the crimes so they can be judged,” she said.
The head of the UN investigative team, Karim Khan, said the exhumation marked an “important moment” for the probe, with 73 mass graves discovered so far in Sinjar alone.
“The road toward accountability is a long one, and many challenges lay ahead,” he said in a statement.
“Notwithstanding this, the spirit of cooperation between the survivor community and the government of Iraq is to be applauded.”
Daesh is currently battling to defend the last shred of its crumbling “caliphate” across the border Syria in the face of Kurdish-led forces backed by an international coalition
The Yazidis are a religious minority with unique beliefs that distinguish them from Muslim and Christian worshippers in the region. The Kurdish-speaking Yazidis follow an ancient religion rooted in Zoroastrianism, but Daesh considered them to be “apostates.”


Iran backtracks on plan to send flight recorders to Ukraine

Updated 11 min 56 sec ago

Iran backtracks on plan to send flight recorders to Ukraine

  • An Iranian official said “the flight recorders from the Ukrainian Boeing are in Iranian hands and we have no plans to send them out”
  • He said Iran is working to recover the data and cabin recordings, and that it may send the flight recorders to Ukrain or France

TEHRAN: The Iranian official leading the investigation into the Ukrainian jetliner that was accidentally shot down by the Revolutionary Guard appeared to backtrack Sunday on plans to send the flight recorders abroad for analysis, a day after saying they would be sent to Kiev.
Hassan Rezaeifar was quoted by the state-run IRNA news agency as saying “the flight recorders from the Ukrainian Boeing are in Iranian hands and we have no plans to send them out.”
He said Iran is working to recover the data and cabin recordings, and that it may send the flight recorders — commonly known as black boxes — to Ukraine or France. “But as of yet, we have made no decision.”
The same official was quoted by the semi-official Tasnim news agency on Saturday as saying the recorders would be sent to Ukraine, where French, American and Canadian experts would help analyze them. Iranian officials previously said the black boxes were damaged but are usable.
It was not immediately possible to reconcile the conflicting accounts. Iran may be hesitant to turn over the recorders for fear that more details from the crash — including the harrowing 20 seconds between when the first and second surface-to-air missiles hit the plane — will come to light.
The Guard’s air defenses shot the plane down shortly after it took off from Tehran on Jan. 8, killing all 176 people on board. Hours earlier, the Guard had launched ballistic missiles at US troops in Iraq in response to the US airstrike that killed Iran’s top general in Baghdad. Officials say lower-level officers mistook the plane for a US cruise missile.
Iranian officials initially said the crash was caused by a technical problem and invited countries that lost citizens to help investigate. Three days later, Iran admitted responsibility after Western leaders said there was strong evidence the plane was hit by a surface-to-air missile.
The victims included 57 Canadian citizens as well as 11 Ukrainians, 17 people from Sweden, four Afghans and four British citizens. Most of those killed were Iranians. The other five nations have demanded Iran accept full responsibility and pay compensation to the victims’ families.
The plane was a Boeing 737-800 that was designed and built in the US The plane’s engine was designed by CFM International, a joint company between French group Safran and US group GE Aviation. Investigators from both countries have been invited to take part in the probe.