ISTANBUL — A mass grave containing 24 bodies was discovered in Mosul. Among the dead were also bodies of children.
The shallow grave was in a remote patch of land, located about 30 meters from a road and was discovered by soldiers working to clear the area of mines and bombs left by the Islamic State (IS).
Reportedly the grave contained victims of the IS militants. They were likely killed for attempting to flee the IS-held areas.
Clearing the city of bombs, booby traps, and improvised explosive devices is not an easy task, said Federal Police Major General Haidar Dhirgham.
"We have a plan to surround the Old City. Today we have advanced from the right and left sides and the only part left is right in the middle. God willing we will continue this plan today,” he told Reuters.
However, Dhirgham was optimistic about the end date of the operation to recapture the city.
“I expect the liberation of Mosul to be completed in one month. I will not tell you one or two weeks, because that's not true, but within one or two months it will be completely liberated,” Dhirgham said.
"There are only some neighbourhoods that remain, like the Old City. This is too narrow but our forces will be able to enter soon," Dhirgham added.
One reason for the speedy end date Dhirgham is expecting is due to IS ' actions. The IS militants setting homes ablaze indicates that their position is weakening.
"The enemy...has started to set fire to houses which means that they are on retreat. They have destroyed homes and have destroyed families," Dhirgham explained.
However, for the Iraqi forces, not only the defeat of the IS, but also the protection of civilians remains a priority.
"We will liberate civilians before liberating the land," Dhirgham stated.
"We will take them out of the neighbourhoods, if we have their consent. If they would like to flee to an area in the back flanks or if we could secure them within their neighbourhoods, we will secure them in their homes," he added.
In total, over 326,000 people have been displaced from both eastern and western halfs of the city since the battle began on October 17 of the previous year. Though a number of people have returned to their homes, more than 254,000 are still displaced.