Iraqi experts start exhuming bodies at Tikrit mass graves of soldiers killed by Islamic State

Iraqi forensic teams in the newly recaptured city of Tikrit have started exhuming bodies from mass graves believed to contain some of the hundreds of soldiers killed by Islamic State militants last year, a government spokesman said Tuesday.

BAGHDAD — Iraqi forensic teams in the newly recaptured city of Tikrit have started exhuming bodies from mass graves believed to contain some of the hundreds of soldiers killed by Islamic State militants last year, a government spokesman said Tuesday.

Kamil Amin from Iraq’s Human Rights Ministry said the work started on Monday on eight locations inside Tikrit’s complex of presidential palaces, where much of the killing is believed to have taken place.

Islamic State militants overran Saddam Hussein’s hometown last June, capturing around 1,700 soldiers as they were trying to flee Camp Speicher, an air base previously used by U.S. troops on the outskirt of Tikrit. The fall of Tikrit was part of the Islamic State onslaught that stunned Iraqi security forces and the military, which melted away as the militants advanced.

Later, the Islamic State group posted graphic images online that appeared to show its gunmen massacring scores of the soldiers after loading the captives onto flatbed trucks and then forcing them to lay face-down in a shallow ditch, their arms tied behind their backs.

Other videos showed masked gunmen bringing the soldiers to a bloodstained concrete river waterfront inside the presidential palaces complex in Tikrit, shooting them in the head and throwing them into the Tigris River.

After weeks of bitter clashes, Iraqi forces and allied Shiite militias, succeeded in retaking Tikrit from the Islamic State. Their victory was helped by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, which were not initially part of the operation.

Amin told The Associated Press that at least 12 bodies were exhumed on Monday. Lab tests will be carried out to match them with DNA samples that have already been taken from families of around 85 per cent of the victims.

Iraqi state TV showed forensic teams digging in an open area, helped by bulldozers as family members stood nearby. The bodies were tagged with yellow tags while weeping soldiers and relatives lit candles and laid flowers alongside the covered remains. One clip showed unearthed skeletal remains still wearing combat boots.

“The work is continuing and we expect to discover more mass graves in different areas,” Amin said. “We expect huge number of bodies to be unearthed.”

During their blitz last year, Islamic State extremists also carried out other mass killings in other areas. One of those massacres was outside the country’s second-largest city of Mosul, where they forced some 600 Shiite inmates captured from Badoosh prison to kneel along the edge of a nearby ravine and shot them with automatic weapons. The prisoners had been serving sentences for a range of crimes, from murder and assault to nonviolent offences.

And in Anbar province, the militants shot dead dozens of pro-government Sunni tribal fighters in public areas after capturing their towns.

The Islamic State’s onslaught plunged Iraq into its worst crisis since the 2011 U.S. troop withdrawal from the country. The militants have also targeted Iraq’s indigenous religious minorities, including Christians and followers of the ancient Yazidi faith, forcing tens of thousands from their homes.

Since then, the Islamic State group has carved out a self-styled caliphate in the large area straddling the Iraqi-Syrian border that it now controls.

In early August, the United States launched airstrikes on the militant group in Iraq, in an effort to help Iraqi forces fight back against the growing threat by the IS militants, who still hold the northern Iraqi province of Ninevah and most of the western province of Anbar, in addition to small areas north of Baghdad in their hands, along with a large swath of land in neighbouring Syria.

Also on Tuesday, the Islamic State group started broadcasting in English on the militants’ al-Bayan radio station, with a fluent English-speaking presenter, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, a U.S. group that monitors militant websites. The broadcast on Tuesday gave the overview of recent attacks IS launched in Iraq, Syria and Libya.

Just Posted

Rural transit service rolled out

2A South Regional Transit will link Innisfail and Penhold with Red Deer

Some Red Deer waste collection schedules change due to holiday season

Tuesday collections will be moved for two weeks

Red Deer ‘champion’ helps hospital by sharing ongoing petition

It’s been about three years since many physicians at Red Deer Regional… Continue reading

Red Deer Airport’s prospects are looking up for 2019

Ultra-low-cost passenger service is on the horizon

Funding down for Red Deer Christmas charities

Food hampers and toys for children going out to those in need

Alberta’s Sundial starts shipping to AGLC this week

Sundial’s Rocky View facility has received the green light from Health Canada… Continue reading

Penny Marshall dead at 75, best known as TV’s Laverne and director of ‘Big,’ ‘A League of Their Own’

Bronx-born Penny Marshall, who found ’70s sitcom success on “Laverne and Shirley”… Continue reading

Chabot scores overtime winner to lift Senators over Predators 4-3

OTTAWA — Thomas Chabot saw an opening and he took it. And… Continue reading

Canadian Marielle Thompson earns World Cup ski cross bronze in season opener

AROSA, Switzerland — Canada’s Marielle Thompson captured bronze at the opening World… Continue reading

Canada doesn’t make Oscars short list for best foreign language film

LOS ANGELES — Canada is no longer in the running for best… Continue reading

Warrant issued for arrest of ‘Schwimmer lookalike’ suspect

LONDON — A British judge has issued an arrest warrant for an… Continue reading

Moneywise: Canadian workers unhappy with pay, want pension plans

Many working Canadians are feeling underpaid and are so worried about their… Continue reading

Brazil police say faith healer has turned himself in

RIO DE JANEIRO — A celebrity faith healer accused of sexually abusing… Continue reading

B.C. hockey coach creates ‘gear library’ to remove cost barrier of sport

VANCOUVER — Nicola Froese says she has always loved playing sports, but… Continue reading

Most Read