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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 May, 2003, 18:23 GMT 19:23 UK
Mass grave found near Babylon
Skull found in mass grave near Babylon
The bones are said to include those of children

A mass grave has been uncovered near the Iraqi city of Babylon which appears to date back to a failed 1991 uprising against Saddam Hussein.

Local people searching for relatives have been digging up bones wrapped in stained blankets.

Some said they had known of the site but had never dared to start digging while Saddam Hussein was in power.

"I lost four relatives... My father and older brothers, they took them for joining the intifada," Hazim Talib-Abed told the French AFP news agency.

"When they came for my younger brother, we did not let them know where he was. Instead they took my mother."

The uprising broke out in the aftermath of the first Gulf War and was brutally repressed. Tens of thousands are thought to have died.

Needles

US marines at the site said the bones included those of children aged between 10 and 12.

The marines, who attempted to cordon off the site ahead of the arrival of forensic scientists, said they had found documents dating back to 1990 and needles scattered over the bodies in an attempt to keep animals from digging there.

Some were executed, you can see bullet holes in their skulls
US Lieutenant David Lewis

"We suspect that this happened during the 1991 uprising and eyewitnesses say they saw people drive up here to dump the dead," Lieutenant David Lewis told Reuters news agency.

"Some of the skulls appear to have been cut open, maybe they were experimenting with the prisoners.

"Some were executed, you can see bullet holes in their skulls. Some were still strapped to metal structures."

He said the scientists would help with the further excavation of the site, just a few miles from Babylon, an ancient city south of Baghdad.

Several mass graves have been found in Iraq since Saddam Hussein's regime was toppled by US-led forces on 9 April.

The International Committee of the Red Cross announced at the end of April that it had contacted US-led coalition forces to try to check numerous reports about mass graves in Iraq.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Raphael Jesurum
"Families gather, hoping some clue will identify missing loved ones"



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