Iraqi forces in Badush on Tuesday. Photo: AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iraqi security forces have taken control of Badush prison near Mosul. ISIS “massacred” hundreds of inmates of the prison when they seized control in the summer of 2014.
The Iraqi army’s 9th armoured brigade and the Hashd al-Shaabi’s Abbasi al-Qitali division are in control of Badush prison, the command of the ‘We are Coming Nineveh’ operation announced in a statement published Wednesday afternoon.
The prison is located about 10 kilometres northwest of Mosul on the road to Tal Afar. Iraqi forces also took control of a segment of the road on Wednesday the operation command announced, cutting off ISIS’ route between Mosul and Tal Afar.
On June 10, 2014, ISIS extra judicially executed as many as 670 prisoners from Badush prison.
The night before, fearing ISIS would come, guards at the prison triple-locked cell doors and fled. Witnesses said the inmates began to panic. “There were about 50 of us in our cell, screaming,” one told Human Rights Watch. “We were also shouting for water. We had only dirty tap water to drink. No one responded.”
Before dawn, guards who had changed into civilian clothes visited a cell containing about 90 Yezidi inmates and said they were leaving. They told the prisoners that Mosul had fallen to ISIS and advised them to escape. “But the cell door was locked,” another witness said. “It was chaos inside. We thought if ISIS enters they would behead us all, because in that section we were Christians, Kurds, Yezidis.”
ISIS broke into the prison in the early morning and many prisoners were able to escape, fleeing immediately. Those who did not escape were rounded up.
ISIS 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.
ISIS gunmen ordered up to 670 prisoners, mainly Shiites as well as some Kurds and Yezidis, to kneel down in four rows and opened fire. “Such cold-blooded, systematic and intentional killings of civilians, after singling them out for their religious affiliation, may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity,” said Pillay, Reuters reported at the time.
Human Rights Watch spoke with 15 survivors of the massacre who 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 told Human Rights Watch.
About 30 or 40 survived the massacre.
Sunni and Christian inmates who had been separated from the Shiites were taken to another location, perhaps Anbar or Syria, witnesses told Human Rights Watch. ISIS removed between 50 and 100 on the grounds they were actually Shia. Three days later, the remaining prisoners were brought back to Mosul and freed, the witness said.
The prisoners were serving a variety of violent and nonviolent crimes including murder and assault.