ERBIL, Iraq, (Reuters) - A mass grave containing the remains of at least 16 Yazidis was unearthed in northern Iraq on Friday as the atrocities committed by Islamic State against the religious minority gradually come to light.
The grave in the northwestern district of Zumar is the second to be discovered this week. The bones of around 27 other Yazidis were found in a bloodstained pit several days ago in the Sinjar area.
Yazidi member of parliament Vian Dakhil said preliminary analysis indicated six of the bodies in the grave belonged to infants and two were women, all of whom seem to have been killed in the early days of Islamic State’s incursion last summer.
The Yazidis, thought to number several hundred thousand in Iraq before they came under attack by Islamic State, are mostly Kurdish speakers whose ancient religion has elements of Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Islam.
Islamic State militants say they are devil worshippers, an accusation Yazidis reject, and must convert to Islam or die.
Dakhil said it is not yet clear how the victims died, but some skulls showed signs of damage.
Kurdish peshmerga forces in northwestern Iraq were overpowered by Islamic State militants in August and withdrew, leaving minority Yazidis at the mercy of the extremist group.
Hundreds of Yazidis were killed and thousands captured and enslaved by the militants, who overran the northern city of Mosul in June and proclaimed an Islamic caliphate spanning Iraq and Syria.
Tens of thousands fled to the Kurdistan region, where they are living in camps alongside other ethnic and religious minorities as well Sunni Muslims displaced by the jihadists.
The peshmerga have been regaining ground in northern Iraq over the past months, backed by coalition airstrikes. Some eleven Yazidi mass graves have been uncovered so far, Dakhil said.
Reporting by Isabel Coles; Editing by Tom Heneghan