ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Local authorities from a southern Iraqi province began on Friday the early stages of exhuming a mass grave containing Kurds believed to have been killed during the former Baathist regime’s deadly Anfal campaign.
“Most of them are women and children,” Muthanna Governor Ahmed Manfi told Kurdistan 24 regarding the work team's preliminary examinations.
They have so far found evidence of “over 300 bodies” at the site, Manfi said, adding that workers had also retrieved various accompanying documentation and that the results the forensic investigation will be announced in the near future.
He added that it could be the largest such site found in the desert of al-Salman, a southwestern district of Muthanna Province where the notorious Nigret al-Salman prison camp is located.
Between 1986 and 1989, the government of Saddam Hussein undertook a campaign of genocide against the Kurds to the north. Spearheaded by the infamous Ali Hassan al-Majid, also known as "Chemical Ali," the operation saw the deaths of up to 182,000 ethnic Kurds.
Many were forcibly displaced to other parts of the country and held in specialized camps before being summarily executed and buried in large groups. Nigret Salman is one such site.
Since the fall of the Baathist regime in 2003, many mass graves filled with Anfal victims have been exhumed in various locations throughout Iraq.
Governor Manfi continued by stating that the dedicated team of workers have designated nearly ten other such sites in the general vicinity but have yet to inspect them all. He explained that the project was conducted in coordination with authorities in the Kurdistan Region and that the remains would be sent there once the appropriate work and documentation had been completed.
Manfi visited the Kurdistan Region in early March and met with local officials, including Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) leader Masoud Barzani.
The two explored in depth the topic of the rule of the former regime, with Barzani calling for a more concerted effort to locate mass graves and subsequently return the bodies to their homeland for proper burial.
In late March, the United Nations mission in Iraq announced that the unearthing of the first mass grave filled with Yezidis (Ezidis) killed in more recent years by the Islamic State had been completed in a village in the town of Sinjar (Shingal).
"Concluding the five-day exhumation process, the remains were extracted from the site and stored in a specially adapted secure vehicle for transportation to Baghdad," read a statement.
Editing by John J. Catherine