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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 October, 2004, 04:12 GMT 05:12 UK
Babies found in Iraqi mass grave
Investigator Greg Kehoe at the Hatra grave site
A US investigator said bodies were bulldozed into the graves
A mass grave being excavated in a north Iraqi village has yielded evidence that Iraqi forces executed women and children under Saddam Hussein.

US-led investigators have located nine trenches in Hatra containing hundreds of bodies believed to be Kurds killed during the repression of the 1980s.

The skeletons of unborn babies and toddlers clutching toys are being unearthed, the investigators said.

They are seeking evidence to try Saddam Hussein for crimes against humanity.

Tiny bones, femurs - thighbones the size of a matchstick
P Willey
US investigating anthropologist
It is believed to be the first time investigators working for the Iraqi Special Tribunal (IST) have conducted a full scientific exhumation of a mass grave.

"It is my personal opinion that this is a killing field," Greg Kehoe, an American working with the IST, told reporters in Hatra, south of the city of Mosul.

"Someone used this field on significant occasions over time to take bodies up there, and to take people up there and execute them."

Tiny bones

The victims are believed to be Kurds killed in 1987-88, their bodies bulldozed into the graves after being summarily shot dead.

Map of Iraq
One trench contains only women and children while another contains only men.

The body of one woman was found still clutching a baby. The infant had been shot in the back of the head and the woman in the face.

"The youngest foetus we have was 18 to 20 foetal weeks," said US investigating anthropologist P Willey.

"Tiny bones, femurs - thighbones the size of a matchstick."

Mr Kehoe investigated mass graves in the Balkans for five years but those burials mainly involved men of fighting age and the Iraqi finds were quite different, he said.

"I've been doing grave sites for a long time, but I've never seen anything like this, women and children executed for no apparent reason," he said.

Long search

Kurds demonstrate in Halabja
Iraq's Kurds are hoping for justice at last
Mr Kehoe said that work to uncover graves around Iraq, where about 300,000 people are thought to have been killed during Saddam Hussein's regime, was slow as experienced European investigators were not taking part.

The Europeans, he said, were staying away as the evidence might be used eventually to put Saddam Hussein to death.

"We're trying to meet international standards that have been accepted by courts throughout the world," he added.

"We're putting a package together on each body removed - pictures of bones, clothes, a forensic report."

Iraq's human rights ministry has reportedly identified 40 possible mass graves across the country.

The dig at Hatra, where a makeshift morgue has been erected, was due to be completed on Wednesday.


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The site could hold thousands of bodies



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