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

PHOTO: Renewable Energy Fair at Red Deer College

The Renewable Energy Fair and Workshops event was held at Red Deer… Continue reading

PHOTOS: Red Deer College Queens host third annual Pink in the Rink game

The RDC Queens picked up an extra special victory on home ice… Continue reading

PHOTOS: The Mustard Seed CEO speaks at Seeds of Hope Gala in Red Deer

The first-ever Seeds of Hope Gala was held at the Red Deer… Continue reading

Person airlifted to hospital after collision near Innisfail

One person was airlifted to hospital after a serious collision west of… Continue reading

WATCH: Make-A-Wish grants Star Wars loving teen’s wish

The Make-A-Wish Foundation granted Anakin Suerink’s wish in Red Deer Saturday afternoon

Migrant caravan swells to 5,000, resumes advance toward US

CIUDAD HIDALGO, Mexico — Despite Mexican efforts to stop them at the… Continue reading

“I don’t feel real”: Mental stress mounting after Michael

PANAMA CITY, Fla. — Amy Cross has a hard time explaining the… Continue reading

Toronto residents set to vote Monday on the next four years of civic leaders

Toronto’s municipal election campaign, marked by unprecedented provincial interference, ends Monday when… Continue reading

Former PQ minister Lise Payette remembered as role model for female politicians

MONTREAL — Members from across Quebec’s political spectrum gathered at a downtown… Continue reading

Voters head to polls for BC municipal elections today, some complain of long lines

VANCOUVER — Voters in British Columbia are heading to the polls today… Continue reading

Kennedy Stewart named mayor of Vancouver; one of several B.C. turnovers

VANCOUVER — Former New Democrat MP Kennedy Stewart has won a neck-and-neck… Continue reading

‘In our bloodline:’ Land-based learning links curriculum with Indigenous culture

REGINA — A school day for six-year-old Hunter Sasakamoose can start with… Continue reading

‘Stupid’ law preventing Canada’s re-engagement with Iran: retired envoy

OTTAWA — The real reason the Liberal government hasn’t been able to… Continue reading

Most Read