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Iraq's UN Ambassador Accuses Islamic State of Harvesting Organs

Allegations have circulated of radical militants trafficking in organs, with the illicit trade reportedly providing yet another way for the Islamic State to diversify the portfolio that funds its activities.

by Liz Fields
Feb 18 2015, 6:35pm

Photo by John Minchillo/AP

Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations has invited international observers to investigate corpses discarded by Islamic State militants, whom he has accused of harvesting organs from captives.

Ambassador Mohamed Alhakim called on the Security Council to look at bodies recovered from mass shallow graves, which have been found with deep surgical cuts and missing organs.

"We have bodies. Come and examine them," he said. "It is clear they are missing certain parts."

Alhakim made the accusations following a council briefing session Tuesday on the overall state of Iraq, in which he said the Islamic State were guilty of "crimes of genocide" against ethnic minorities in Iraq, but did not elaborate on the types of crimes.

"These terrorist groups have desecrated all human values," he said. "They have committed the most heinous criminal terrorist acts against the Iraqi people whether Shiite, Sunni, Christians, Turkmen, Shabak or Yazidis."

The ambassador also claimed that militants had killed a dozen doctors in Mosul for refusing to harvest organs.

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Allegations of this ghastly practice among militants have circulated previously. Organ harvesting appears to be yet another way for the Islamic State to diversify the portfolio that fund its activities, according to a December report from Al-Monitor.

Iraqi otolaryngologist Siruwan al-Mosuli informed Al-Monitor that he had noticed "unusual activity" around medical facilities in Mosul where foreign surgeons were employed but banned from interacting with local doctors. He claimed that injured or fallen fighters and hostages were among those used to harvest organs, which are then sold and trafficked through networks to medical institutions abroad.

In early 2014, reports surfaced of organ harvesting taking place in areas of Syria controlled by Islamic militants. Hossain Noufel, the head of the forensic pathology department of the Damascus University, told Syrian newspaper Al Watan that there had been more than 18,000 cases of organ trafficking in the country's north. 

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The UN's outgoing envoy to Iraq, Nikolay Mladenov, also told the intergovernmental organization Tuesday that multiple reports from Iraq upheld allegations that the Islamic State were harvesting organs to bolster its finances.

"It's very clear that the tactics ISIL is using expand by the day," he said, referring to an alternative name for the group, which is also known as ISIS. "Almost daily terrorist attacks continue to deliberately target all Iraqis, most notably the Shi'ite community, as well as ethnic and religious minorities, across the country."

Mladenov noted that at least 790 people had been killed by terrorism and armed conflict in January alone in Iraq.

Last week, the council unanimously adopted a resolution aimed at cutting off Islamic State funding by targeting the sale of oil and antiquities from territory that the group controls in Iraq and Syria, as well as ransom payments for hostages it has taken.

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Additional reporting was contributed by Samuel Oakford.