Macabre discoveries in Iraq: 470 bodies exhumed in Tikrit

massacre-speicher-fait-jusqua-1700Iraq has unearthed nearly 500 bodies in mass graves in Tikrit where jihadists armed group Islamic state are accused of massacring hundreds of recruits, mostly Shiites, early in his lightning offensive there nearly a year.

«Nous avons exhumé les corps de 470 martyrs… (PHOTO ALI Al-SAADI, AFP) – image 1.0
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“We have exhumed the bodies of 470 martyrs of Speicher,” said at a press conference the Minister of Health, Adila Hammoud, adding that this figure was not final because “the excavation work continues.”

Nearly two months after taking over Tikrit, authorities announced Thursday that the bodies had been discovered in four mass graves around the town north of Baghdad.

“We have exhumed the bodies of 470 martyrs of Speicher,” said at a press conference the Minister of Health, Adila Hammoud, adding that this figure was not final because “the excavation work continues.”

In June 2014, armed men belonging or related to the EI had abducted hundreds of young recruits gathered in the Military Camp Speicher, located on the northern edge of Tikrit.

They were then executed one by one, according to images broadcast by propaganda IE that had caused fear and anger among the Shiite community. These images, combined with the appeal of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the highest Shiite authority in Iraq had significantly contributed to the mobilization of militias with government forces against the jihadists.

Some bodies were thrown into the Tigris River, which runs through Tikrit, while most were buried in mass graves nearby.

The 470 remains listed “were exhumed in four locations. One of them was more important than the others, with 400 bodies, “said Ziad Ali Abbas, chief physician of the main Baghdad morgue. “There were several layers of bodies on each other,” he said.

The “massacre Speicher” would have up to 1,700 deaths, making it one of the most atrocious acts of the EI estimated.

Continuing the offensive in Ramadi

Under pressure from families of recruits brought disappeared, Iraqi authorities began searching sites after resuming on March 31 in Tikrit, the stronghold of former dictator Saddam Hussein.

Foreign experts, including the International Red Cross, involved in the identification of victims, including made possible by DNA analysis and personal property found on the remains (documents, mobile phones …). The authorities plan to communicate next week the first names of identified victims lists.

“It’s a complicated job due to the large number” of the missing, said Minister Hammoud.

The main site of “massacre of Speicher” in recent weeks has become a place of pilgrimage where collect without new families for a year of a son, a father or a close. A tombstone was erected there while most of these families will not have to wear body in the ground.

In western Iraq, Iraqi forces backed by Shiite paramilitary groups continued Thursday in an attempt to encircle the jihadists in Ramadi, capital of Anbar, the largest province of the country.

Following the capture of the city on May 17 by the EI, Iraq and its American ally had been forced to change their strategy, focused on creating an anti-Sunni jihadist force, and call the rescue of Shiite militias in the largely Sunni province, risking strengthen community tensions.

As part of the operation launched Tuesday, some 4,000 men – soldiers, police, Shiite militiamen and members of Sunni tribes – took control of some neighborhoods around Ramadi, located a hundred kilometers west of Baghdad.

In Syria, the head of Al-Nusra Front, local branch of Al Qaeda, denounced Wednesday the American air raids and accused the Americans to coordinate with the Damascus regime to use Syrian airspace.

Questioned by the Qatari television channel Al-Jazeera, Abu Mohamed al-Jolani however assured that his mission was to bring down the regime in Damascus and he was not expected to launch attacks against the West for Syria .

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