In what signals the strengthening of roots of terror, the dreaded outfit Islamic State (IS) buried around 15,000 or more victims of its atrocities in total 72 graves along Syria and Iraq, a survey conducted by Associated Press found.
In exclusive interviews, photos and research, AP documented and mapped 72 of the mass graves, the most comprehensive survey so far, with many more expected to be uncovered as the Islamic State group's territory shrinks.
In Syria, it has obtained locations for 17 mass graves, including one with the bodies of hundreds of members of a single tribe all but exterminated when IS extremists took over their region.
For at least 16 of the Iraqi graves, most in territory too dangerous to excavate, officials do not even guess the number of dead. In others, the estimates are based on memories of traumatized survivors, Islamic State propaganda and what can be gleaned from a cursory look at the earth.
Still, even the known victims buried are staggering — from 5,200 to more than 15,000.
Then there are the graves still out of reach. The Islamic State group's atrocities extend well outside the Yazidi region in northern Iraq.
Satellites offer the clearest look at massacres such as the one at Badoush Prison in June 2014 that left 600 male inmates dead. A patch of scraped earth and tire tracks show the likely killing site, according to exclusive photos obtained by the imagery intelligence firm AllSource Analysis.
Of the 72 mass graves documented by AP, the smallest contains three bodies; the largest is believed to hold thousands, but no one knows for sure.
(With AP inputs)