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Iraqis Start Exhuming Mass Graves in Tikrit
International

Iraqis Start Exhuming Mass Graves in Tikrit

Iraqi forensic teams in the newly liberated 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, AP reported. IS 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 US troops on the outskirt of Tikrit. The fall of Tikrit was part of the IS onslaught that stunned Iraqi security forces and the military, which melted away as the militants advanced and captured key cities and towns in the country's north and west.
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. After weeks of bitter clashes, Iraqi forces and allied Shiite militias, succeeded in retaking Tikrit from the Islamic State. Their victory was helped by US-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 percent of the victims.

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