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Teams Start Exhuming Tikrit's Many Mass Graves

ISIS claimed to have killed as many as 1,700 soldiers there in June
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 7, 2015 8:57 AM CDT
Teams Start Exhuming Tikrit's Many Mass Graves
An Iraqi man plants a national flag at the site of a mass grave, believed to contain the bodies of Iraqi soldiers killed by Islamic State group militants when they overran Camp Speicher.   (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

(Newser) – In June, ISIS did the barbaric: slaughtered scores of soldiers at a base on the outskirts of Tikrit. With the city newly liberated, Iraqi forensic teams have now begun the grim process of excavating suspected mass graves thought to contain some of the 1,700 soldiers ISIS claims to have killed at Camp Speicher. The AP cites an official with the country's Human Rights Ministry who says eight sites within the complex of presidential palaces are being worked on; Reuters puts the number of suspected mass graves at 12. Another official yesterday told Reuters that "initial indications show indisputably" that a handful of bodies recovered yesterday are those of Speicher victims, though DNA testing will be carried out to confirm this.

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The AP notes that one clip aired on Iraqi state TV showed unearthed skeletal remains still wearing combat boots. A CNN reporter on the scene describes decomposed bodies with their hands still tied together. In making its claim, ISIS released photos showing soldiers being led to trenches and then facedown in them before and after their execution. Other videos showed masked gunmen bringing the soldiers to a bloodstained concrete river waterfront, shooting them in the head, and tossing them into the Tigris. Previous reports have stated that if the number of dead is indeed 1,700, the massacre would rank as by far the largest atrocity in the country in more than a decade. (Read more ISIS stories.)

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