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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 April, 2003, 14:38 GMT 15:38 UK
'Mass grave' found in Iraq
Graves outside Kirkuk
Kurdish officials say the dead are victims of Saddam Hussein
Kurdish officials say they have found a series of mostly unmarked graves that contain about 2,000 bodies outside the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk.

They say the area was used by the Iraqi army to bury Kurds they killed in the late 1980s.

During that period at least 100,000 Kurds were killed in Saddam Hussein's policy of ethnic cleansing in Iraq.

The site of the graves lies close to an old Iraqi base, but so far there has been no independent verification or extensive excavation of the site.

Bodies recovered

BBC correspondent Dumeetha Luthra says some of the graves are marked, the rest lie in unmarked mounds.

Kurds did dig up two graves on Wednesday and say they found a woman wrapped in plastic and covered in dried blood.

The other grave, they say, held a man with remnants of a Kurdish fighter's uniform.

Our correspondent says people have been told not to tamper with the site.

She added the fact that no-one was allowed to see the bodies being buried is suspicious.

In 1988 Saddam ordered a massive operation known as the Anfal Campaign against the Kurdish population in northern Iraq.

In one incident, Ali Hassan al-Majid, Saddam's cousin who was also known as "Chemical Ali", directed a poison gas attack on the town of Halabja.

'Applause quotas'

Meanwhile, more discoveries throwing light on the extent of the Baath party's grip on society under Saddam Hussein have emerged in Iraq's second city, Basra.

Thousands of documents were left scattered around the party compound when Iraqi forces fled a little over a week ago.

The Washington Post reports that many of the documents have now been translated, providing the closest detail yet of how the lives of ordinary citizens were controlled by party bureaucrats.

The papers include details of:

  • payoffs to tribal leaders

  • quotas for cheering crowds on Saddam Hussein's birthday

  • long lists of bonuses paid to party members on every state occasion

  • reports on suspicious families and pro-Iranian Shia "traitors" in their midst

No detail appears too small to escape the party's attention - from making sure women turned up at a military parade, to determining the location of machine-guns for defence of local party buildings.

The paper says the documents also reveal the weaknesses of the regime, with army deserters being the biggest preoccupation, alongside lack of adequate food and water for the troops and failure to meet recruiting quotas.

But other dangers were perceived as coming from outside the party.

One hand-drawn map was entitled "location of traitors in the city's marshes".

Today the party compound in Basra appears to be a camp for displaced people.

The BBC's Dumeetha Luthra
"The Iraqis say this is the site of their war victims"

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