Human bones and articles of clothing thought to belong to Kuwaitis captured during the 1991 Gulf War have been unearthed at a mass grave near an Iraqi military firing range.
Searchers dug up the remains yesterday as one of Saddam Hussein's most trusted generals surrendered to American forces in Baghdad yesterday.
The Iraqi National Congress, the former opposition group, claimed that the bones were those of captured Kuwaitis. Reporters escorted yesterday to the site near Habaniyah, 50 miles west of Baghdad, saw three 9ft-deep pits dug within and just outside a U-shaped sand berm.
Two of the pits yielded human remains – including a pair of wrist bones roped together – along with several skulls, tattered fabric, plastic sandals and shoes. No bones were found in the third pit. Mohammed Mahmud Attiya, a farmer living nearby, said that in 1991 he heard gunfire and the cries of people he believed were being shot.
Two Kuwaiti forensic teams are being sent to Iraq to investigate. Some remains are likely to be taken to Kuwait.
Abdul Aziz al-Kubasi, an INC official, said the group learned about the site from a truck driver who claimed to have delivered corpses of executed victims that were dumped into pits at Habaniyah, an area of sprawling military bases.
Meanwhile a former senior official of Saddam's Republican Guard, and cousin of the deposed leader, surrendered to Coalition forces in Baghdad yesterday.
General Kamal Mustafa Abdallah Sultan al-Tikriti gave himself up.
Mustafa spent almost his entire career in the Republican Guard. His brother is married to Saddam's youngest daughter, Hala.
The US Defence Department announced yesterday that President Bush's new civilian administrator for Iraq, Paul Bremer, wants Bernard Kerik – who led the New York Police Department through the 11 September attacks – to "assist in the establishment of security, stability and law and order in Iraq".
The Americans are trying to step up efforts to restore law and order in Baghdad. More than 240 people have died there from gunshot injuries in little more than three weeks, in a wave of post-Saddam score-settling, racketeering, battles over the spoils of looting and shootings between US soldiers and Iraqis.
Yesterday, the Allies faced a new problem as reports surfaced that anti-American Shias had begun attacking liquor stores in Baghdad and have issued an edict threatening violent punishment against Muslim women who fail to wear headscarves.
Such measures fly in the face of the Coalition's statements that it is the sole and absolute authority in Iraq. But the US military believes it is making progress in its efforts to end lawlessness in Baghdad, albeit by sometimes using techniques that others would define as heavy-handed – among them hitting Iraqis who resist arrest with the butts of M-16 rifles.
The task is formidable. The capital is awash with guns. Looters have attacked properties ranging from the former luxury homes of Saddam's intelligence agents to sites the Americans believe could contain Iraq's alleged, and notably elusive, chemical and biological weapons.
"My guys are doing great," said Lt-Col Scott Rutter, commander of the US task force whose soldiers have been patrolling Baghdad. However, he admitted that between 20 and 30 Iraqis had been shot dead by soldiers from one American battalion alone over the past month as the US military sought to impose order.Reuse content