Thursday, 28 May 2015

Iraq 'exhumed 470 bodies from Tikrit mass graves'

Iraq has exhumed the remains of 470 people believed to have been executed by jihadists 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. In June 2014, armed men belonging or allied to the Islamic State group abducted hundreds of young, mostly Shiite recruits from Speicher military base, just outside the city of Tikrit.

They were then lined up in several locations and executed one by one, as shown in pictures and footage later released by the Islamic State group. Some were pushed into the Tigris river, others hastily buried in locations that were discovered when government and allied forces retook Tikrit from the jihadists about two months ago.

The highest estimate for the number of people killed in one of the worst atrocities committed by IS stands at 1,700.

First list of names

"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, after weeks of DNA testing.

Identification documents the victims were carrying at the time of their capture were also found near burial sites.

Officials had said in mid-April that up to 10 different suspected burial sites were identified in the Tikrit area as a result of its recapture by government forces in late March and the first days of April.

Combined with a call by the country's top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani for Iraqis to take up arms against them, the Speicher massacre played a key role in the mass recruitment of Shiite volunteers to fight the jihadists.

One of the spots where the Speicher cadets were executed is a police building in the sprawling Tikrit palace complex former president Saddam Hussein built in his hometown.

The quay where the victims were shot in the head and pushed into the Tigris has, since Tikrit was retaken, been turned into an improvised shrine. Relatives, many of whom will never have a body to bury, have streamed to the site over the past two months along with fighters, delegations of officials, students and others.

Thursday 28 May 2015

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Nepal recovers more human remains from U.S. chopper crash site

Nepal has found more human remains at the site where a U.S. military helicopter crashed during a mission to aid victims of the country's earthquake, the army said on Wednesday.

The recovery was made on May 25, 10 days after the bodies of six U.S. Marines and two Nepali soldiers were found among the wreckage of the aircraft in mountains northeast of the capital Kathmandu.

Nepali media said five people from earthquake-devastated villages in Dolakha district had gone missing after being taken aboard an aid helicopter. It was not known which aircraft they had boarded.

“We have started investigations into whether these human remains belonged to the eight people (two Nepalis and six U.S. Marine corps) killed in the crash or to other people,” the Nepali Army said in a statement.

“The army is trying to find out if the U.S. Marine Corps helicopter had any persons other than the military personnel from the two countries," it added.

“The facts will be known only after joint investigations and DNA tests the reports of which will be made public without delay."

The Marines' UH-1Y Huey helicopter disappeared while distributing aid in a remote area of Nepal. The quakes on April 25 and May 12 killed at least 8,676 people.

The cause of the crash is so far unknown.

Thursday 28 May 2015

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Lufthansa begins repatriation of victims of Germanwings disaster

The bodies of victims of the Germanwings flight that crashed into the Alps in March of this year are now being repatriated to their home towns. Lufthansa, the parent company of the Cologne airline, has been contacting relatives over the last week, and asking relatives where they wish the remains to be sent.

It took a commission until May 15 to identify the 150 victims and authorities have warned that, unfortunately, there is very little biological material to give families, as the plane and all its occupants were destroyed beyond recognition.

The morning of March 24 saw around 50 Spaniards board the Barcelona-D├╝sseldorf flight. Spanish relatives of 45 passengers are believed to be reaching an out of court settlement on compensation with the company.

Thursday 28 May 2015

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