On Tuesday April 7 it was announced that Iraqi forensic teams begun exhumation in a mass grave found in the recently liberated town of Tikrit. It is believed hundreds of soldiers have been buried here, being killed by Islamic State (IS) militants last year.
Iraqi Human Rights Ministry representative Kamil Amin explained the operation began on Monday April 6 in 8 areas of the town’s complex of presidential palaces. These are believed to have been locations where many brutal conflicts took place.
In June 2014, IS fighters took control of Saddam Hussein’s hometown, taking 1,700 soldiers as prisoners. They were captured as they tried to run escape from Camp Speicher, an air base used in the past by the U.S. army, located at the town’s periphery.
The overtaking of Tikrit was part of a larger mission, militants capturing other key cities and towns in the northern and western part of Iraq.
The Islamic State later posted graphic images and recording of the brutal punishments that had been applied to the captured soldiers. In one such video, masked individuals brought the captured soldiers to a concrete riverfront situated inside Tikrit’s presidential palaces complex. The waterfront was stained with blood. After bringing all the prisoners, the gunmen proceeded to shoot each one in the head then threw the killed soldiers in the river.
But due to the combined forces of Iraqi and Shiite militants, they managed to retake the town of Tikrit, after several weeks of continuous fighting. U.S. forces contributed with airstrikes thus speeding up the mission.
According to Amin, at least 12 bodies were retrieved from the mass grave on Monday. Experts will compare soldier DNA samples to that of families. Almost 85 percent of the victims’ families have given samples to be compared to that of the exhumed soldiers. He added:
“The work is continuing and we expect to discover more mass graves in different areas. We expect huge number of bodies to be unearthed.”
Last year, the Islamic State carried out mass killings in other parts of the country as well. One such tragic event took place outside Iraq’s second largest city – Mosul. IS militant captured about 600 Shiite prisoners from the Badoosh prison and made them kneel along the edge of a nearby canyon where they also shot them with automatic weapons.
Image Source: Military Times