Iraqis find 33 bodies beneath former Al-Qaeda 'court'
AFP - Sunday, November 30
BAQUBA (AFP) - - Iraqi authorities have uncovered several shallow graves north of Baghdad containing the bodies of 33 people believed to have been executed by Al-Qaeda earlier this year, officials said on Saturday.
Police, health officials and local residents unearthed the bodies, many of which had been blindfolded and handcuffed, at the village of Abu Toama in the Diyala province north of Baghdad, one of the deadliest regions in the country.
Dr Ahmed Fuad, director of the morgue at the main hospital in the provincial capital of Baquba, confirmed he had received the bodies but had not yet determined their time of death.
One of the corpses had a woman's long hair and another appeared to be a child, according to an AFP photographer.
The bodies appeared to be around a year old, meaning they would have been killed in the months after Al-Qaeda seized control of the area in late 2007, district police chief Major General Ibrahim al-Anbaki said.
Residents said Al-Qaeda drove everyone out of the village in early 2008 and transformed it into a "courthouse" where they tried and executed people from surrounding areas according to a radical interpretation of Islamic law.
The killings took place over several months, with small groups of bodies buried together at different times, Anbaki said.
When US and Iraqi security forces drove Al-Qaeda out of the area earlier this year, returning villagers were tipped off to the shallow graves by the smell of decay and an abundance of stray dogs in the area, Anbaki said.
"We expect to find other graves in the orchards of this village," he added.
The ethnically and religiously mixed Diyala province, once famous for its verdant orchards, has seen scores of attacks and sectarian killings in recent years and remains dangerous despite US and Iraqi security crackdowns.
Iraq has seen dramatic improvements in security over the past year as US and Iraqi forces have allied with local militias to drive out fighters loyal to Osama bin Laden's global network.
But insurgents continue to carry out smaller attacks on a near-daily basis in some areas, including Baghdad, Diyala and the northern city of Mosul.
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Iraqi officials look on as a corpse is removed from a mass grave in Albu Toama. Iraqi authorities have uncovered several shallow graves north of Baghdad containing the bodies of 33 people believed to have been executed by Al-Qaeda earlier this year.
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