Iraqi forces seize Badush prison where hundreds executed in June 2014, and repel IS counter-attack in Mosul
Iraqi forces took control of the infamous Badush prison, northwest of Mosul, where Islamic State reportedly executed as many as 670 prisoners in 2014, the Iraqi army said on Wednesday.
Iraqi troops also cut off an IS counter-attack in Mosul and gained full control of several strategic sites in the city on Wednesday, including the last major road leading west to the militant-held town of Tal Afar.
Fighting in the city is becoming more intense, as Iraqi troops push further into the more densely populated areas in west Mosul, close to Mosul’s old city.
After seizing the prison in its sweep of northern Iraq in June 2014, IS executed as many as 670 prisoners, according to witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch.
Site of massacre
IS broke into the prison in the early morning of 10 June and many prisoners were able to escape, fleeing immediately. Those who did not escape were rounded up.
The militants put between 1,000 and 1,500 prisoners from Badush onto trucks and took them away for screening, where Sunni were separated from the others, the UN’s then-high commissioner for human rights Navi Pillay said.
IS gunmen forced up to 670 prisoners to kneel down in four rows and executed them. They were mainly Shia as well as some Kurds and Yezidis.
Survivors of the massacre interviewed by HRW said they were brought to a ravine about two kilometres from the prison, robbed, and lined up along the edge of the ravine.
“A man behind us asked, ‘Are you ready?’ Another person answered ‘Yes,’ and began shooting at us with a machine gun. Then they all started to shoot us from behind, going down the row,” a survivor said. About 30 or 40 survived the massacre.
Sunni and Christian inmates who had been separated from the Shia were taken to another location.
Last major road seized
Later on Wednesday, the Iraqi military said the army and Shia paramilitary forces had taken full control of the last major road leading west out of Mosul towards the town of Tal Afar, state TV reported.
The western side of Mosul where IS militants remain hidden often using civilians as human shields is now isolated from Tal Afar, the group’s closest remaining stronghold. The road to Tal Afar then continues to the Syrian border.
Shia militias participating in the Mosul campaign started surrounding Tal Afar late last year, after the offensive was launched. They linked up with Kurdish fighters to encircle IS fighters.
A 100,000-strong force of Iraqi military units, Shia forces and Kurdish fighters, backed by a US-led coalition, have fought since October in the Mosul campaign.
Battle for west Mosul intensifies
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared IS's self-proclaimed caliphate from the Nuri Mosque in Mosul’s old city in June 2014.
Iraqi and US officials believe that al-Baghdadi left operational command in Mosul to some of his hardcore followers and fled the city to hide in the desert as the offensive to capture the city got underway late last year.
IS militants have deployed snipers and used car bombs to defend their last major Iraqi stronghold and slow down the Iraqi troops' advance.
The assault on the western half of the city was launched last month, after the Iraqi army recaptured the eastern side of the city in January.
Elite troops of the Iraqi interior ministry recaptured the provincial government headquartes on Tuesday along with the central bank branch and Mosul’s museum. IS militants had filmed themselves destroying priceless artifacts and statues at the museum in 2015.