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Thousands still missing after Iraq's victory over IS

Since July, over 3,000 missing-person reports have been submitted [Getty]

Date of publication: 31 December, 2017

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The Islamic State group might have been defeated, but thousands of families are waiting in limbo for news about their loved ones who are still missing.
Mosul's liberation speaks a different story for the thousands of families left in limbo, waiting to hear news of their missing loved ones.  

Abdulrahman Saad was taken from his home in Mosul in 2014 by Islamic State group fighters. His family have been waiting for news ever since.

Saad's family asked for him. They questioned IS security officers and judges. No answer was given to them. When the operation to retake Mosul began, hope returned and they were told he was being held in the western part of the city with hundreds of other prisoners.

After the liberation of Mosul, no trace of Saad was to be found.

"Life without my father is difficult," says his son, Rami to AP. Without him, the Saads struggle to get by, and his wife pines for her spouse.

Since July, over 3,000 missing-person reports have been submitted to the Nineveh's provincial council according to council member Ali Khoudier. Most of those missing are men and teenage boys, arrested either by IS militants or by Iraqi forces.

Iraqi government bureaucracy, inefficiency and neglect have left thousands of families across the country hanging as the leadership celebrates the defeat of the IS.

Yazidi fears

Earlier this month, Iraqi Kurdish officials said that around half of the Yazidi ethnic and religious minority kidnapped during their sweep through northern Iraq three years ago are still missing.

Thousands of Yazidi women and girls were killed or kidnapped and used as sex slaves, when the militants captured Sinjar in 2014.

A top official with the ministry of religious affairs of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq said that some 6,417 Yazidis were abducted by the militants from 3 August, 2014.

Up until 1 December 2017, only 3,207 of them have been rescued or managed to flee their captors, said Khairi Bozani.

The remaining 3,210 Yazidis - including 1,507 women or girls - were still either held by the militants or considered missing, he told AFP.

Violations against detainees

In a 76-page report, Human Rights Watch found that thousands of people suspected of having ties to the Islamic State group are facing widespread right violations.

The leading international rights group said some 20,000 people are believed to be detained in Iraqi custody on suspicion of ties to the IS. Many are held in inhumane detention centres without due process.

Iraqi officials estimate that as many as 4,000 people - some dead, others buried alive - were thrown into a sinkhole in the desert linking Mosul to Baghdad, in the Islamic State group's most infamous mass grave.

IS fighters "would bring them and make them get out (of the car) and line up at the edge of the hole", said Mohammed Younis, a resident of the area, to AP recounting the weeks and months leading up to the fight for Mosul.

"They would line them up and then they would execute them. And the bodies would all fall into the hole."

An AP investigation estimates between 11,000 and 13,000 bodies in the graves.

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