Iraqi security forces discover mass graves of 40 Christians in an area west of Mosul

(Reuters/Khalid al Mousily)A mass grave for Islamic State militants are seen in Falluja, Iraq.

A mass grave containing the remains of 40 Christians was discovered by Iraqi security forces and pro-government militias in the area west of Mosul, according to a source from the Syriac Orthodox Church.

According to Iraqi News, Iraqi security forces, along with Al-Hashd al-Shaabi, also known as Popular Mobilization Forces, found the mass graves in Iraq's Halila region.

"Most of the human remains were buried collectively. Some of them were for women and children. They had small Christian crosses with them," the church source said.

Tens of mass graves have been discovered by security troops in regions previously occupied by the Islamic State and more than 70 graves, including Yazidis killed by the terror group, were also found.

However, an official from Nineveh province has said that the latest mass grave discovered in the west of Mosul did not contain the remains of victims of ISIS.

Dureid Hikmat, the deputy governor of Nineveh for Christian affairs, stated that "the mass grave that was found in Mosul is not for victims killed by Islamic State, but for people who were killed more than 30 years ago."

In the area northwest of Mosul, the Iraqi army uncovered a mass grave containing the remains of ISIS militants, who were killed by other members while the terror group was in control of the city.

"Troops of the Iraqi army ran into a mass grave in al-Zarka region in Baaj town including 100 human corpses of local and Arab Islamic State members. The corpses were shot in the heads and chests," Col. Ali al-Taan told reporters last week.

More than 125,000 Christians have been displaced in Iraq's Nineveh region after ISIS captured Mosul in 2014 and proclaimed an "Islamic Caliphate" in Iraq and Syria.

In October 2016, the government launched its campaign to fight the terror group, resulting in the deaths of thousands of ISIS militants as well as Iraqi civilians.

In July 2017, Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi declared victory over ISIS, and in December, he announced the full liberation of Iraqi lands, declaring the end of the war against the terror group.

Last month, Iraqi Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil came to Washington, D.C. to speak about the future of Christians in Iraq. He lamented that the attacks by ISIS had left Christians "without shelter, without refuge, without work, without properties, without monasteries, without the ability to participate in any of the things that give our lives dignity."

The archbishop noted that the total number of Christians in Iraq had decreased from 1.5 million in 2003 to about 200,000 or less today.

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