At least 72 mass graves found in Iraq and Syria revealed a massacre of thousands at the hands of the Islamic State, according to reports.
The Associated Press (AP) conducted exclusive interviews and documented at least 72 mass graves unearthed in the former strongholds of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS or Daesh) terrorist group.
One of the mass graves contained three bodies while the largest reportedly contained thousands.
AP mapped out 17 mass graves in Syria with one that contained the dead bodies of hundreds of members all belonging to a single tribe. The report also included 16 mass graves in Iraq located in areas still considered too dangerous to excavate. The number of the accounted dead already ranges from 5,200 to 15,000.
"We see clear evidence of the intent to destroy the Yazidi people," said Naomi Kikoler of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
She also noted a stark absence of "effort to systematically document the crimes perpetrated, to preserve the evidence, and to ensure that mass graves are identified and protected" needed to prosecute the criminals behind what the Western powers recognized as genocide.
Rasho Qassim, the Iraqi father whose two sons lie among the graves, drives daily by the site and said that many families are waiting to give their deceased loved ones a proper burial.
"We want to take them out of here," said Qassim. "There are only bones left. But they said 'No, they have to stay there, a committee will come and exhume them later."
"It has been two years but nobody has come," he added.
Ziad Awad, the editor of Deir el-Zour's online publication, The Eye of the City, reported that some local residents found 400 bodies in one grave, all are believed to be members of the Shueitat tribe.
A mass grave in Raqqa also contained the bodies of 160 Syrian soldiers.
"This is a drop in an ocean of mass graves expected to be discovered in the future in Syria," Awad said.
The Islamic State confirmed on Tuesday the death of ISIS spokesman and key leader Abu Muhammad al-Adnani during a targeted U.S. airstrike as the Iraqi forces advance toward an offensive to retake Mosul.