A vast cemetery in southern Iraq is running short of space as fighters killed in the battle against Islamic State (Isis) double the average rate of burials. The Wadi al-Salam cemetery – Arabic for Valley of Peace – in Iraq's Shi'ite holy city of Najaf, covers an area of around 10 square kilometres and is the final resting place of five million people.

Najaf cemetery Wadi al-Salam
The Wadi al-Salam cemetery, Arabic for 'Valley of Peace', is seen in Najaf, Iraq Alaa Al-Marjani/Reuters

The number of daily burials his risen to 150-200 since the ultra-hardline Sunni militants overran a third of the country in 2014, Jihad Abu Saybi, a historian of the cemetery, told Reuters. The rate was 80-120 a day previously, he said.

The scale of the enormous cemetery – a seemingly never-ending sea of tombs – can be seen in this stunning drone footage.

As land becomes scarce, the cost of a standard 25 square metre family burial plot has risen to about five million Iraqi dinars (£3,200 or $4,100). This is almost double the amount paid for the same sized plot before violence escalated as IS exerted control over large swathes of north and western Iraq in 2014.

The cemetery has a special place in the hearts of Shia Muslims as it is near the mausoleum of their first imam, Ali Bin Abi Talib, a cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad. Shia fighters often visit the shrine before heading to the frontline to battle Daesh, and request to be laid to rest in Wadi al-Salam should they be killed, as a reward for their sacrifice.