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Mass grave found in Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — A mass grave holding an estimated 100 bodies was found in an orchard in Iraq’s Diyala province, just north of Baquba, officials told CNN.

Coalition forces have not been able to do a thorough survey of the site yet, Maj. Brad Leighton, spokesman for Multi-National Forces – Iraq, said in a statement to CNN.

The skeletal remains appear to have been in the grave for a long time, and we have not yet determined who might be responsible for their death and burial, said Leighton.

The grave was found on Saturday near Khalis town, about 15 km (9 miles) north of Baquba, in Albu Tumaa village by U.S. and Iraqi forces conducting a joint military operation in the area.

Baquba is about 60 km (37 miles) north of Baghdad.

Meanwhile, thousands of people in the southern city of Basra marched on police headquarters on Saturday demanding better security for their crime-ridden city.

Kidnappings, murders and thefts have risen in Iraq’s second largest city since British troops handed over responsibility for the province to Iraqi soldiers and police.

Shiite groups have been fighting for control of the oil-rich area.

We, as the security council in Basra, hold the central Iraqi government and security forces in Basra responsible for the recent deterioration in security situation, said Hakim al-Mayahi, the head of Basra’s security council.

The protesters, estimated by The Associated Press to be as many as 5,000 people, criticized Police Chief Gen. Abdul Jalil Khalaf — who has held the post for nine months — for failing to establish security in the city.

Al-Mayahi said the police chief had re-assigned more than 1,500 police officers from inside Basra to outside the city because of personal disagreements.

He said the city suffers several thefts and kidnappings each day and that assassinations have increased significantly since the British handed over security responsibilities to the Iraqis in December.

Khalaf said at a news conference later that today’s demonstration was a natural right of the citizens and the political parties to express their opinions, AP reported.

He defended the performance of the police, saying they had freed 10 people who were kidnapped in the past 10 days and detained 64 people accused of carrying out sabotage and terrorist operations all over Basra.

The protests in Basra came as the grass-roots cleric whose Mehdi Army militia has gained notoriety among coalition troops admitted many followers have split from his movement or do not heed his leadership.

Muqtada al-Sadr made the admission during Friday noon prayers and it was posted on his Web site. The Mehdi Army has been an active player in violence across Iraq.
Mass grave found in Iraq – found here.

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March 9, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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