Bones unearthed in central Iraq linked to missing Kuwaitis
HABANIYAH, Iraq -- Searchers at an Iraqi military firing range have unearthed human bones and articles of clothing they say belong to a mass grave of people executed in the 1990s.
The Iraqi National Congress, a former opposition group, asserted that the bones belonged to Kuwaitis captured during the 1991 Gulf War. Group members said a truck driver told them he witnessed the killings, but there was no physical evidence at the site to corroborate the claim.
In Kuwait, government officials announced that they would send two forensic teams to Iraq to investigate the site. Abdul-Hamid al-Attar, an official of a government committee following up on the fate of people missing since Iraq's occupation, said some of the remains might be taken back to Kuwait.
Near Habaniyah, 50 miles west of Baghdad, an INC official escorted reporters Saturday to the site where three 9-foot-deep pits were dug within and just outside a U-shaped sand berm.
Two of the pits yielded human bones along with several skulls, tattered fabric, plastic sandals and shoes. No bones were found in the third pit.
The official, Abdul Aziz al-Kubasi, said the INC learned about the site from a truck driver who claimed to have delivered corpses of executed victims that were dumped into pits at Habaniyah, an area of sprawling military bases.
Al-Kubasi said he uncovered the bones after hiring an excavator to dig in places that the driver identified.
The driver declined to be interviewed, al-Kubasi said, because he feared retribution. Al-Kubasi said the driver claimed the remains were those of Kuwaitis and was hoping to collect a $1 million reward offered by Kuwait's government for information on the fate of 600 of its nationals missing since 1991.
Al-Kubasi said he relayed news of the find to U.S. and Kuwaiti officials, but none were present Saturday.
There was no evidence at the site to suggest that the unearthed remains belonged to Kuwaitis or that the number of victims could be as high as 600.
Mohammed Mahmud Attiya, a farmer living nearby, said that in 1991 he began hearing gunfire and the cries of people he believed were being executed.
If the bones in Habaniyah turn out to be part of a mass grave, it will be one of several under excavation across Iraq. Most appear to date to the violent aftermath of the 1991 Shiite revolt against Saddam Hussein's rule.
On Thursday, volunteers said the remains of about 3,100 people had been found at Mahaweel, 60 miles south of Baghdad, making it the largest grave found since U.S. forces overthrew Saddam's government last month.