Mass Grave Containing 100 Bodies Found North of Baghdad

By Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, March 9, 2008

BAGHDAD, March 8 -- Iraqi security forces have discovered a mass grave containing the skeletal remains of about 100 people in an area north of Baghdad once dominated by the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq, U.S. and Iraqi officials said Saturday.

The grave was found Friday on the outskirts of a village northeast of Khalis, a predominantly Shiite town in Diyala province that is surrounded by Sunni villages. Some of the worst sectarian violence of the war has taken place in Diyala. Many of the bodies in the grave were decomposed and appeared to have been buried a long time, U.S. military officials said.

Maj. Gen. Abdul Karim al-Rubaiee of the Diyala province operations center said that Iraqi security forces had recovered 13 of the bodies and that many others were still in the ground.

Hundreds of mass graves have been discovered in Diyala and elsewhere in Iraq since U.S.-led forces overthrew Saddam Hussein in March 2003. But this site "is the largest mass grave found so far in Diyala province," said Ibrahim Majilan, head of the provincial council.

U.S. military officials said that an investigation was underway and that it was unclear who was responsible for the killings.

Majilan said civilians found the grave and alerted the Iraqi security forces. The Associated Press, citing Iraqi police, reported that the grave was near an orchard and was found by soldiers who followed a strong stench to the site.

"For the past two years, nobody was able to go to this area and it was completely under al-Qaeda control," Majilan said, adding that the group's presence in the area has greatly diminished in recent months.

Other Washington Post staff in Iraq contributed to this report.

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