Iraq exhumes 470 bodies of 'ISIL massacre victims'

Burial sites found in Tikrit believed to be of cadets who were abducted from army base before executed last year.

    Hundreds of families whose relatives went missing have been waiting for confirmation that their loved ones were among the Speicher victims [File: AFP]
    Hundreds of families whose relatives went missing have been waiting for confirmation that their loved ones were among the Speicher victims [File: AFP]

    Iraqi authorities have exhumed the remains of 470 people believed to have been executed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group (ISIL) near the city of Tikrit last year, the country's health minister has said.

    "We have exhumed the bodies of 470 Speicher martyrs from burial sites in Tikrit," Adila Hammoud said on Thursday at a press conference in Baghdad, referring to the nearby military base that the massacre was named after.

    In June 2014, armed men belonging or allied to ISIL abducted hundreds of young, mostly Shia recruits from Speicher base, just outside the city of Tikrit. They were then lined up in several locations and executed one by one, as shown in pictures and footage that has emerged since.

    The highest estimate for the number of people killed in one of the worst atrocities ever committed by ISIL stands at 1,700.

    Some of their bodies were pushed into the Tigris river and others hastily buried in locations that were discovered when government and allied forces retook Tikrit from the fighters about two months ago.

    "These bodies come from four burial sites...One of them was bigger than the others and contained 400," said Ziad Ali Abbas, the chief doctor at Baghdad's main morgue.

    He said forensic examination of the exhumed remains was conducted with foreign assistance, including from the International Committee of the Red Cross.

    Hundreds of families whose sons, fathers and brothers went missing at the time of the ISIL-led offensive in Iraq have been waiting for confirmation that their loved ones were among the Speicher victims.

    Officials at Thursday's press conference said the first list of names would be released next week.

    The news comes as Iraqi army aided by Shia militias have been fighting to retake Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, from the ISIL fighters.

    In the past 24 hours at least 110 Iraqi security forces have been killed in the fighting with the rebel group.

    SOURCE: AFP


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