Hundreds of Iraqi soldiers' bodies found in mass graves in Tikrit

The bodies of 1,700 Iraqi soldiers are believed to have been buried at the mass graves site. Credit: Reuters/Stringer

Hundreds of bodies have been uncovered by forensic teams searching for the remains of 1,700 Iraqi soldiers who are believed to have been massacred last summer by Islamic State (IS) militants as they swept across northern Iraq.

The remains were found in graves at Camp Speicher in Tikrit which is located in the presidential compound of the former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Exhumations at the site began just days after Iraqi and Shi'ite paramilitaries took back the city from IS fighters.

The site was uncovered after Iraqi and and Shi'ite paramilitaries regained Tikrit. Credit: Reuters/Stringer
The mass grave site is located in the presidential compound of former leader Saddam Hussein. Credit: Reuters/Stringer

Several ID cards belonging to Iraqi army soldiers were found and the site was identified as the spot where hundreds are reported to have been lined up and shot.

The massacre was believed to have taken place in June last year after IS posted videos and pictures of the execution of mostly Shia soldiers on social media but many families never had confirmation of their relatives' death.

DNA testing will be used to identify the bodies once they have been exhumed. Credit: Reuters/Stringer

Khalid al-Atbi, an Iraqi health official working with the forensic team sent to Tikrit, told the Reuters news agency: "We dug up the first mass grave site today. Until now we found at least 20 bodies. Initial indications show indisputably that they were from the Speicher victims.

"It was a heartbreaking scene. We couldn't prevent ourselves from breaking down in tears. What savage barbarian could kill 1,700 persons in cold blood?".