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thedrifter
04-18-03, 07:49 AM
Mass grave found near Kirkuk, claims Kurdish TV station
By Andrew Clennell
18 April 2003


More than two thousand unmarked graves have been found at a site outside Kirkuk, Kurdish officials and Kurdish television claimed yesterday.

The officials told the BBC the area, just outside the northern Iraqi oil city, was where Saddam Hussein's forces had killed Iraqi Kurds in the late 1980s. The site was reported to be close to an old Iraqi military base.

Last night, the claims had not been independently verified and there had been no excavation of the site.

Kurdish satellite television reported it had found a cemetery filled with about 3,000 unmarked shallow graves. It reported that it had been led there by a Kurdish resident.

The television station, run by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), claimed the graves were filled with people with civilian clothes on. The cemetery was at the southern edge of a road to a large Iraqi military position.

The PUK has requested that no one tampers with mass graves because of the risk of disturbing evidence.

Also yesterday, an unnamed former Iraqi colonel was reported as telling the London Evening Standard that Saddam Hussein ordered thousands of Iraqis including Kurds and Shia Muslims to be executed and buried in mass graves in the desert in the 1980s and 1990s.

Victims were told they were being "relocated" before being packed into overcrowded buses and taken to sites in the desert west of Baghdad, the newspaper quoted the colonel as saying.

"I saw thousands killed and buried in mass graves," he said. "Some were lined up and machine gunned before being covered with sand. Others were buried alive."

He said some of the alleged killings in the desert near Tharthar, north-west of Baghdad, and the Al Anbar desert to the west of the capital were ordered after Shia uprisings in the south at the time of the 1991 Gulf War.

The colonel said many officers hated what Saddam ordered them to do in the security force known as al-Amn al-Amm which policed political activity in Iraq from 1982 until 1999.

"We took thousands from Shia areas in Karbala, Najaf, Basra, Mosul, Kut, Babylon and from Saddam City in Baghdad and they were bussed into the desert. Then they were shot and buried," he said.

He described the killings that happened at one base in Muhaywir in the north of the Al Anbar desert.

"I saw a line of men maybe three kilometres long. One officer would ask each man his name and before he could reply another would shoot him in the back of the head," he said.

A spokesman for the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva said many reports of such incidents had been collected since before the last Gulf War. The spokesman said the colonel's report had not yet been passed to the UN but officials would try to cross-reference the claims with their records of past disappearances if they received the details.


Sempers,

Roger