Middle East

Iraq uncovers 'Saddam Hussein-era' grave of 800 bodies

A man excavates a mass grave in the desert of Anbar province 14 April
Image caption The remains will be matched against the missing from the Iran-Iraq war

Iraqi officials have found a mass grave containing the bodies of more than 800 people thought to have been executed during Saddam Hussein's rule.

"There were shots to the head, there were men, women and children," said Human Rights Minister Mohammed Sudani.

The grave was found in Iraq's western Anbar province. The remains are thought to be from the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran war.

Rights groups say there are hundreds of graves in Iraq with the bodies of up to 300,000 people killed under Saddam.

"This mass grave represents one of the ugliest crimes of the former regime and a huge violation of human rights," said Mr Sudani of the latest find in Anbar.

"Through the remains of clothes and other things, we believe they were from different sectors of Iraqi society. Some trenches included women and children, others included soldiers with military uniforms or tracksuits," he was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.

The minister said the remains would be sent to the health ministry for forensic examination, to match them with the names of soldiers and people who went missing during the Iran-Iraq war.

The victims could also be Kurds, against whom Saddam waged military campaigns in the 1980s and 90s, and Shias who staged an uprising in 1991.

In 2003, a mass grave containing more than 3,000 bodies was discovered near the farming community of Mahaweel, 60km (35 miles) south of Baghdad.

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