Hundreds more found in mass grave

Aram Ahmed Muhammad, Kurdistan Regional Government's Minister of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs, attends a press conference in Erbil.

Aram Ahmed Muhammad, Kurdistan Regional Government’s Minister of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs, attends a press conference in Erbil.

Ministry putting together expert teams

Excavations continue of mass graves of Kurds buried in Iraq’s southern desert during Saddam Hussein’s era. The remains are examined to find the identity of the bodies and are brought back to Kurdistan for reburial, said the Kurdish minister of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs

The remains reportedly belong to Kurds who were taken from Kurdistan villages as part of the Anfal operations in 1988. The operation, carried out by the Iraqi Baath regime, took the lives of more than 100,000 Kurds and destroyed more than 4,000 villages in an attempt to crack down on Kurdish revolutionary movements during that period.

The remains of 105 people were returned to Kurdistan, announced Aram Ahmed Muhammad, the Kurdistan Regional Government?s Minister of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs. This is the second group of bodies transported from mass graves found in Diwaniya Province, at a location called Mahari near Shinafiya. The first group of 100 bodies was returned in August.

Samples for medical tests were taken from 212 bodies. Another 285 bodies were recently unearthed and will be transported to Erbil. The excavation process continues with teams from the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights and KRG Ministry of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs, but there?s no official estimate for the number of bodies in Mahari?s mass graves.

Muhammad also announced that his ministry is working to build a team of specialists to find mass graves. The team of 25 will be trained by American organization, the International Commission on Missing Persons.

The minister said that expert teams are needed for excavating mass graves, particularly those with chemical residues. A number of mass graves remain untouched in Halabja because of a lack of trained teams, said the minister. The ministry is in contact with a British company that will visit Halabja?s mass graves, which require trained teams and specialized equipment because “the bodies are chemically affected.”

The ministry hasn?t yet set a date for reburying the bodies in Kurdistan, said ministry spokesman Fuad Osman. More mass graves are yet to be unearthed in Mahari and more are expected to be discovered, he added.

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