The remains of 15,000 victims of Saddam Hussein’s regime have been found in mass graves in central Iraq, according to the opposition Iraqi National Congress.
The bodies are believed to date back to the Shiite uprising that followed the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq in 1991, Britain’s Sky News reported.
Bodies found in mass grave. Photo: Sky News
The INC said the graves were discovered last week in the central city of Hilla, site of ancient Babylon, about 60 miles south of Baghdad.
“In the last week, four sites have been discovered in Al-Hilla city alone, with approximately 15,000 bodies,” said INC spokesman Entifadh Qanbar, who noted some bodies show evidence of torture and murder.
A U.S. army official in Hilla could not confirm the find, Sky News said. However, U.S. Marines at the site said the bones included those of children about 10-12 years old.
“Citizens are excavating with great sadness and no assistance, collecting bones,” said Qanbar. “Mothers and fathers are trying to identify their children with ID cards and scraps of clothes that they were last seen in.”
Qanbar wants the U.S.-led coalition’s Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance and other organizations to assist Iraqis in accounting for hundreds of thousands still missing.
The INC claims more than a million people were killed during Saddam’s reign.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said last month it was pursuing numerous reports about mass graves in Iraq.
In a separate find today outside the southern city of Basra, bound and blindfolded bodies were pulled from a mass grave, the Associated Press said.
The site is believed to hold the remains of up to 150 Shiites killed by Saddam’s regime. Basra is a Shiite stronghold that was punished for generating insurgencies against Saddam’s Sunni-dominated regime.
“We get new information about [mass graves] every day,” said Sayed Haider al-Hussein, an official at Basra’s al-Jumhuriya Grand Mosque. “I feel a lot of anger and pain. Saddam has blood on his hands.”
The first 32 coffins removed were lined up at the Basra mosque where relatives searched through them for missing loved ones.