ATHBAH, Iraq — The horror stories about the Islamic State’s mass killings at a cavernous hole in the desert near Mosul became legendary over the years.
Soon after the group took control of the Iraqi city more than 2½ years ago, the 100-foot-wide sinkhole five miles southwest of the airport became a site for summary executions. Some victims were made to line up at the edge of the hole and were shot before being kicked inside, while others were tossed in alive, residents said. Sometimes bodies were just trucked in for dumping.
Residents of Mosul whispered about the deaths at the sinkhole, or “khasfa,” as it is called. But with communications limited and locals too fearful to speak out publicly, it was only after Iraqi forces retook the area last month as they closed in on the city’s western side that the scale of the killings at the site began to emerge. Based on anecdotal evidence, Iraqi officials say thousands may have perished there in recent years.