RE: Unbelievably frighting news from Iraq
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S. forces have exhumed a mass grave in northwestern Iraq and uncovered the remains of hundreds of people.
Many of the bodies found at the site near al-Hatra are believed to be the bodies of Kurdish women and children thought slaughtered by the Saddam Hussein regime.
A pool reporter recently was taken to the site, and the evidence gathered at the site -- a remote wadi, or valley that cannot be seen by passing vehicles -- is expected to be used in the war crimes trial against Saddam Hussein and his Baathist allies.
"A perfect place for execution," Greg Kehoe, the head of the Regime Crime Liaison Office and leader of the forensic excavation, said Wednesday.
"It is my personal opinion that this is a killing field," Kehoe told reporters during a visit to the site south of Mosul.
"Someone used this field on significant occasions over time to take bodies up there, and to take people up there and execute them."
Authorities began digging September 1 at the site, found a year ago by the U.S. Army.
Crews have excavated two grave trenches, and officials say there could be as many as 12 in the general area. Kehoe said the bodies were apparently bulldozed into the graves.
"Unlike bodies that you've seen in many mass graves -- they look like cordwood -- all lined up," he said. "That didn't happen here. These bodies were just pushed in."
The first trench contains the remains of women and children, and the second contains the remains of men only. More than 100 bodies have been found from the first location and a similar number from the other.
Officials say it is enough to determine a pattern for the killings.
Kehoe said the victims appear to be Kurds, based on the dress and the personal belongings found.
He believes they were probably killed in early 1988, though it might have happened in late 1987.
Many of the victims wore multiple layers of clothing and carried small personal items like jewelry and medication. One child was found with a ball in his hand.
The women -- four or five of whom were pregnant -- and children appear to have been killed with a single small-caliber gunshot to the head.
Some of the women were blindfolded, but Kehoe says 95 percent of the men were blindfolded and had their hands either tied to the man next to them or tied behind their back. Al-Hatra is in Nineveh province, the location of Mosul and Tal Afar.
A lawyer, Kehoe also spent five years working on the Balkans War Crimes Tribunal.
Kehoe said that most mass graves in Bosnia largely contained men of fighting age. Graves near Hatra included many women and children, he said.
"Genocide is the attempt to eliminate, limit or exterminate a religious, ethnic, national or racial group," he said.
"The Kurds are clearly a different nationality. So could it be considered genocide? It could be. Killing, ethnic cleansing, property relocations, all of those were used to try to limit the Kurdish population. What it is fundamentally is downright murder."
Human rights groups believe about 300,000 people were killed during Saddam's 24-year rule, which ended when U.S.-led forces toppled his regime in 2003.
Saddam is set to stand trial for crimes against humanity and other offenses next year. No trial date has been set.
Pool reporters organized by the U.S. military.