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Mass Graves Found Near Shiite Muslim Holy City

May 05, 2003|From Associated Press

KHAN AL RUBEA, Iraq — Haidar Mohammed Atwan was 29 years old when he was blindfolded, tied up and shot in the back of the head after a failed Shiite uprising against Saddam Hussein in 1991.

Sabah Amir Mohammed Tamimi was 19. So was Amna Ali.

Their remains and identification cards were dug up with the bodies of 69 others Saturday and Sunday from a shallow mass grave about 13 miles northwest of Najaf, one of the Shiite Muslims' holiest cities. Bullet casings also were found in and near the graves.

Iraqis exhumed the bodies by digging with shovels and their bare hands, and they expected to find more.

Others were searching the area around Najaf for additional mass grave sites they believe exist. At least one smaller site turned up a few miles away. It was guarded by U.S. Marines.

"This is the tip of the iceberg in this country," Marine Capt. Mike Urena said. "I am sure you will find more."

More than 25 bodies were unearthed Saturday, and at least 10 had been identified, local Iraqis said. Forty-seven sets of human remains, including those of women, were uncovered Sunday afternoon.

The victims were apparently lined up and then shot.

Human rights groups have said they believe Iraq is dotted with mass graves, many containing what they say could be victims of Hussein's various purges, retribution and crushing of any opposition to his absolute power. Access to such suspected sites was prohibited before Hussein's government fell.

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