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AFTER THE WAR

Mass Grave Is Uncovered in Iraq

May 04, 2003|From Reuters

NEAR BABYLON, Iraq — Iraqis on Saturday uncovered what could be a mass grave dating to a 1991 uprising, digging up dozens of bones wrapped in stained blankets and skulls with rectangles cut out of the back.

The Iraqis were looking for sons, brothers, fathers and one mother who they said were taken from their homes during the uprising that broke out in the aftermath of the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

A few said they knew of this site but had never dared to start digging while Saddam Hussein was in power.

U.S. Marines, who had cordoned off the site before the arrival of forensic scientists, said they found documents dating to 1990 and needles scattered over the bodies in a bid to keep animals from digging there.

"We suspect that this happened during the 1991 uprising, and eyewitnesses say they saw people drive up here to dump the dead," Lt. David Lewis said.

"Some of the skulls appear to have been cut open -- maybe they were experimenting with the prisoners. Some were executed. You can see bullet holes in their skulls. Some were still strapped to metal structures."

He said the scientists would help with further excavation of the site, near Babylon, an ancient town south of Baghdad.

Officials of Hussein's government brutally suppressed the 1991 uprising, in which tens of thousands of people were believed to have been killed.

Several mass graves have been found since Hussein was ousted.

"I lost four relatives," Hazim Talib Abed said.

Others in the crowd had similar stories: security men arriving day or night to drag away relatives who were never seen again.

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