ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Iraqi government handed over to Kuwait the remains of 48 of the small Arab nation's citizens who disappeared during Baghdad's 1990 occupation and the ensuing Gulf War, Iraq's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) announced. They had recently been found in a mass grave.
Iraq said it confirmed they were Kuwaiti nationals after conducting DNA testing following excavation of the grave, discovered in March. Iraqi security forces turned them over to Kuwaiti policemen at the Safwan border crossing in the southern Iraqi province of Basra.
According to Reuters, Kuwait says that around 605 people, mostly Kuwaiti, went missing during the seven-month occupation and ensuing war.
"The mass grave found by a technical team designated to finding missing war victims in cooperation with an envoy from the Red Cross on March 6, 2019," said Ahmed Sahaf, spokesperson of Iraq's MoFA.
The grave is located in the Samawa desert, about 200 Kilometers west of the capital city of Muthanna province.
Three more mass graves were also discovered nearby that contained ethnic Kurds, victims of a campaign of genocide the government of Saddam Hussein undertook against the Kurdish people between 1986 and 1989.
In August 1990, Iraq's army occupied Kuwait for seven months after Iraqi officials accused the neighboring country of using so-called "slant" drilling techniques to steal oil from the Rumaila field in Iraq, leading to US-led military action. As Iraqi forces retreated, they set fire to over 600 Kuwaiti oil fields.
In late July, Iraq made its most recent payment to a fund to pay Kuwait $52.4 billion in compensation for losses and damages "incurred by individuals, corporations, governments, and international organizations" as a direct result of Iraq’s invasion and occupation. The plan uses taxes from the sale of Iraqi oil and petroleum products.
The UN commission that overseas the payments almost halted the compensation process from 2014 to 2018 due to the emergence of the Islamic State in the country and the costly fight against the group.
The missing Kuwaitis have been a continuing source of friction between the two neighboring nations.
In December 2018, Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) President Masoud Barzani rejected reports claiming he had information on missing Kuwaitis. Local social media networks and news agencies quoted Barzani allegedly discussing the information.
A journalist had previously said on a television program that, shortly after the fall of the former Iraqi regime, Barzani told him that he knew the specific burial sites of Kuwaiti prisoners and missing persons in areas of the Kurdistan Region.
Editing by John J. Catherine