World Briefing

Mass grave points to IS horrors to come in push for Mosul

HAMAM AL-ALIL, Iraq (AP) — For months, Islamic State group fighters drove thousands of civilians on forced marches across the Nineveh desert into the small town of Hamam al-Alil. Retreating ahead of methodical Iraqi advances on Mosul’s southern approach, IS fighters converged here, rounding up men, women and children for use as human shields and killing dozens of others.

When Iraqi forces began to close in on this cluster of villages along the Tigris River valley, most of the militants fled into Mosul, taking thousands of civilians with them. But before the retreat, IS fighters also led hundreds to a garbage dump past an old IS training camp and shot them dead, leaving the bodies among the piles of trash. A week after Hamam al-Alil was retaken from IS, and days after a delegation from the central government in Baghdad visited the site, about a dozen bodies remain strewn among piles of garbage on the western edge of the town. The bodies that remained were the ones family members were unable to identify. Some had been decapitated, other have their hands and feet bound. Iraqi officials at the scene said the men were killed for alleged spying in aid of the operation to retake Mosul or having links to the Iraqi government’s security forces.

No efforts to preserve the site were visible on a visit Friday and Iraqi officers reported that wild dogs were eating at the decaying corpses that lay on the edge of an old agriculture college later bombed by coalition aircraft after IS converted the sprawling compound into a training base.

Death toll rises to 50 in IS-claimed blast in Pakistan

QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) — The death toll from a bomb blast at a Sufi shrine in southwest Pakistan Saturday has risen to 50 people with more than 100 wounded, officials said.

The Islamic State group later claimed responsibility for the suicide attack at the shrine of Sufi saint Shah Bilal Noorani in the southwestern province of Baluchistan.

Abdur Rasool, an official at the province’s home ministry, said rescuers were transporting the wounded to hospitals and the dead to local morgues, but were struggling in the difficult mountainous terrain, some 350 kilometers (217 miles) south of the provincial capital, Quetta.

The blast targeted worshippers as they were in the throes of their devotional “dhamal” dance, and the courtyard at the time was packed with families, women and children. The Islamic State group’s statement on the IS-affiliated Aamaq news agency said the suicide attack had targeted “Shiites.” The shrine is frequented by both Pakistan’s Sunni Muslim majority and Shiite minority. IS considers all Shiite Muslims heretics.

Dutch police detain protesters before Saint Nicholas arrival

MAASSLUIS, Netherlands (AP) — The Dutch incarnation of Saint Nicholas arrived in the Netherlands on Saturday amid a huge security operation to prevent violent confrontations between supporters and opponents of his helper, “Black Pete.”

The children’s character known as Sinterklaas has in recent years been at the center of a heated debate about race in the Netherlands. That’s because of his sidekick “Black Pete,” who is often played by white people in blackface makeup. Opponents claim he is a racist caricature who harkens back to slavery, while supporters see him as a harmless figure of fun and an integral part of cherished Dutch tradition.

Thousands of people, including many children wearing “Black Pete” costumes who clambered up trees and street lights to get a better view, crowded into the historic harbor of Maassluis for the nationally televised arrival of Sinterklaas. They were watched over by hundreds of police and security guards amid fears of confrontations.