HABBANIYAH: Iraqi soldiers have discovered two shallow graves containing the bodies of people executed by the Daesh group in the western desert town of Rutba, officials said on Thursday.
“The Iraqi army found two mass graves in Rutba containing the bodies of members of the security forces and of civilians,” a captain in the army’s 1st division told reporters.
He said the first indications suggested the victims had been executed by Daesh when the extremist group took control of the town in mid-2014.
Rutba, a small town of significant strategic value, lies on the road to Jordan, about 390 kilometres (245 miles) west of Baghdad.
The mayor of the town, which was retaken from Daesh in May last year, said one grave was found on a plot in a central neighbourhood that had been used to dump hospital waste while the other was located on Rutba’s southern edge.
“The bodies we have seen have bullet impacts... We don’t know the exact number of bodies because we are leaving this work to a forensic team but we expect there are about 25,” Imad Meshaal said.
Rutba is very isolated in the desert of Anbar, a vast western province that has long been a insurgent stronghold and has borders with Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria.
Daesh militants have attacked the town several times since the security forces retook control of it.
Dozens of mass graves have been found across areas of Iraq that Daesh seized in 2014 and have since been retaken by the security forces. A suicide bomber rammed a vehicle packed with explosives into an army checkpoint near the Iraqi city of Fallujah on Thursday, killing two soldiers, officers said.
“A suicide bomber blew up his car at an army checkpoint between Fallujah and Amriyat Al-Fallujah,” an army major told reporters, adding that two soldiers were also wounded in the attack.
Fallujah, which Iraqi forces retook from the Daesh group last year, lies about 50 kilometres (30 miles) west of Baghdad, and Amriyat Al-Fallujah is a town further south.
A police officer confirmed the casualty toll of the latest attack near Fallujah, where extremists continue to routinely target the security forces.
The civilian population has started returning to Fallujah and its surroundings but the city remains plagued by insecurity and a lack of funds to restore basic services.
Meanwhile, five oil wells are still burning out of 25 that Daesh set on fire in Qayyara, south of Mosul, an oil ministry statement said on Thursday.
State-run North Oil Company crews are working to control the fires torched by the hardline militants to slow down the advance of US-backed Iraqi forces toward Mosul, their last major city stronghold in Iraq.
The oil field was one of the main sources of revenue for the group that declared in 2014 a self-styled ‘’caliphate’’ in parts of Syria and Iraq.