"We have found 222 bodies and we have transferred them
to the morgue in the province of Najaf," said Karim Ziad, the
official in charge of mass graves at the Department of Human
Iraqi authorities announced on Wednesday they had
discovered another mass grave with 900 corpses in the
Shanafiyah region near the city of Diwaniyah.
Ziad said several factors suggested that the victims,
most with bullet wounds, were Kurds killed during the regime
of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.
"The mass graves are made up of six trenches, and we
have done (work) on only three of them," he said, suggesting
the number of victims could be much higher.
Dakhil Saihoud, provincial head of the Justice and
Accountability Commission which investigates issues relating
to the former regime, said he was informed there were 17
trenches at the site.
"It is possible there are hundreds of bodies in
there," he said.
"The mass graves are crimes against humanity committed
in 1987," said Human Rights Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani.
"This is one of 84 sites listed at our ministry, and we have
completed work on 34 of them," he said.
Widad Hatem, director of the Committee for Human
Rights in Diwaniyah's provincial council, said women and
children were among the victims.
Maghoul Abdullah, an old man of more than 90, said he
remembered people being rounded up in town.
"The security forces of the old regime evacuated the
area and forced us to leave the place. After a few days, large
trucks took away people at night, and we even clearly heard
their cries," he said.
During Iraq's 1980-1988 war with Iran, deserters were
executed and the Sunni Arab dictator intensified a crackdown
on Shiites suspected of sympathising with Iraq's predominantly
Kurds were persecuted because they were the main
opposition to Saddam.
The number of people missing as a result of atrocities
committed by Saddam, who came to power in 1979, is estimated
at anywhere between 300,000 and 1.3 million, according to
Human rights groups believe there are hundreds of mass
graves in Iraq of people killed during Saddam's rule.
Shortly after the 2003 invasion, the US-led coalition
said there were 263 mass reported graves of people executed in
Iraq under Saddam, including 40 containing evidence of
Shanafiyah: The remains of 222 people,
probably Kurds killed under Iraq's former regime in 1987, were
extracted from a mass grave south of Baghdad, the authorities
said on Sunday.
First Published: Sunday, July 10, 2011, 23:34