Iraq exhumed hundreds of bodies from Tikrit 'mass graves'
Iraq has exhumed the remains of 470 people believed to have been executed by extremists near Tikrit last year in what is known as the Speicher massacre, the health minister said Thursday.
"We have exhumed the bodies of 470 Speicher martyrs from burial sites in Tikrit," Adila Hammoud said at a press conference in Baghdad, referring to the nearby military base that the massacre was named after.
In June 2014, armed men belonging or allied to the Islamic State group abducted hundreds of young, mostly Shia recruits from Speicher base, just outside the city of Tikrit.
They were then lined up in several locations and murdered one by one, as shown in pictures and footage that has emerged since.
Some were pushed into the Tigris river, others hastily buried in locations that were discovered when government and allied forces retook Tikrit from the militants about two months ago.
The highest estimate for the number of people killed in one of the worst atrocities ever committed by IS stands at 1,700.
"These bodies come from four burial sites... One of them was bigger than the others and contained 400," said Ziad Ali Abbas, the chief doctor at Baghdad's main morgue.
He said forensic examination of the exhumed remains was conducted with foreign assistance, including from the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Hundreds of families whose sons, fathers and brothers went missing at the time of the IS-led offensive in Iraq have been waiting for confirmation that their loved ones were among the Speicher victims.
Officials at Thursday's press conference said the first list of names would be released next week.