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Human remains discovered in field near former home of `Chemical Ali'

KIRKUK, Iraq—Kurdish soldiers on Wednesday discovered a large mound containing human remains in a field adjacent to a home that once belonged to Ali Hassan al Majid, nicknamed "Chemical Ali."

Human skulls, jawbones and what appeared to be arm and leg bones poked from four deep trenches cut in the earth about 100 yards from a compound that Kurdish soldiers said belonged to Majid, who led a 1987-88 chemical weapons campaign that killed tens of thousands of Kurds in northern Iraq.

The soldiers said the bones were discovered Wednesday morning as a team of U.S. chemical weapons experts searched for a large white container that local Arab farmers said was buried in the area a few days after the war began.

The mound, which measures about 25 yards by 15 yards, was surrounded by four barbed-wire fences, one inside the next.

"There are many bones here," Lt. Paula Hakeem, a Patriotic Union of Kurdistan soldier, said as he climbed into a ditch and pointed to a long hole at the bottom of the trench. The hole contained a jumble of bones and human skulls.

"We think these are the bones of those killed in chemical attacks in 1988," Hakeem said. His soldiers also found documents in the house that indicated that Majid had lived there, but said they had turned those documents over to U.S. officials.

Tom Barnes, an official from the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, said he told U.S. military officials of the find. U.N. inspectors reached Wednesday night said they hadn't heard of the mound.

Relatives of missing people weren't allowed onto the site Wednesday. Since the war ended, human rights groups have reported finding mass graves in Iraq, but many of them were excavated by locals, making identification of the bodies impossible.

This month, human rights groups reported two more mass grave sites in Hillah, near Baghdad, and another at the village of Muhammad Sakran. Officials estimated that there are as many as 15,000 bodies in those graves.


(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

PHOTOS (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): USIRAQ-GRAVES