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Last Updated: Monday, 21 April, 2003, 22:05 GMT 23:05 UK
Unnamed Iraqi graves found
The al-Qarah cemetery
The site contains 1,000 graves
Hundreds of political opponents of Saddam Hussein are buried in graves at a cemetery on the western outskirts of Baghdad, cemetery officials say.

The al-Qarah cemetery, about 30 kilometres (18 miles) from central Baghdad, contains about 1,000 unnamed graves holding political prisoners, the graveyard's manager said.

Mohymeed Aswad said bodies would arrive at the cemetery more than a dozen at a time - all political prisoners from the Abu Ghraib prison a mile or so away.

Relatives of those who disappeared under Saddam Hussein's regime, have already begun arriving at the cemetery, searching for lost relatives.

'Civilians hanged'

The graves are marked with a steel stake and a piece of rusting tin bearing a number, and they occupy about three acres of land, ringed by a wall about 1.8 metres (nearly six feet) high.

grave being exhumed
People are already searching for lost relatives

Other graves with marble headstones contrast with these shallow pits.

In an opulent mausoleum in another part of the site are the remains of the wife of Iraq's first president, Ahmad Hasa al-Bakar.

Mohammad Moshan Mohammad, a gravedigger, said all the dead that arrived during the last three years were aged between 15 and 30 - men and women who had been shot or hanged.

"They were all youths. The civilians were hanged. Sometimes a soldier would come through and they were all shot. I could distinguish them by their uniforms," he said.

The gravedigger said there were another five cemeteries in Baghdad with secret grave sites containing political opponents of the toppled Iraqi regime.

The BBC's Kim Ghattas in Baghdad says that could mean there are thousands of victims of Saddam Hussein buried around the Iraqi capital.

'Tracing the dead'

The cemetery's manager said word about the secret burial ground had leaked out among Baghdad's citizens and that relatives of the dead were arriving "now that Saddam has left".

"After all these years they might discover their boy, their brother, their husband, if they have the number.

"Maybe in 10 years we can account for all these people, and then close it down," he said.

Earlier this month, hundreds of skulls and bundles of bone in fragments of military clothing were found by British soldiers at an abandoned Iraqi base.

The desiccated remains were found in labelled plastic bags and unsealed hardboard coffins at the base near al-Zubayr in southern Iraq.




SEE ALSO:
Post-war Iraq: war crimes trials?
09 Apr 03  |  Middle East



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