KERBALA, Iraq (Reuters) – Iraqi officials said they found the skeletal remains of 31 people in what they described as a mass grave in the Shi”ite holy city of Kerbala on Tuesday.
A senior official at the laboratory to which the bodies were taken said the people appeared to have died during the suppression of a Shi”ite uprising against Saddam Hussein after the 1991 Gulf War.
"There are 31 bodies. We”re still testing but it appears they are victims of the events of 1991," the official told Reuters.
There had been confusion over the scale of the find at a building site for a sewage project in the city centre, with police initially saying there were 150 bodies; police spokesman Rahman Mishawi later revised that to "dozens" of sets of remains.
A Reuters reporter at the scene saw one sack filled with what appeared to be human bones.
With Saddam on trial for crimes against humanity, the Shi”ite-led government is keen to remind Iraqis of their suffering under his Sunni-dominated administration.
Some minority Sunni Arab leaders have accused police and other government officials of exaggerating accounts of atrocities and of using Saddam”s trial for sectarian political advantage.
Some 300 possible mass graves have been reported since Saddam”s fall in April 2003, many in southern Shi”ite areas of the country and in Kurdish areas of the north.
Human rights activists estimate that hundreds of thousands of people disappeared during Saddam”s rule.