Kamil Amin from Iraq’s Human Rights Ministry said the work started on Monday on eight locations inside Tikrit’s complex of presidential palaces, where much of the killing is believed to have taken place.
IS militants overran Saddam Hussein’s hometown last June, capturing around 1,700 soldiers as they were trying to flee Camp Speicher, an air base previously used by US troops on the outskirts of Tikrit.
The fall of Tikrit was part of the Isis onslaught that stunned Iraqi security forces and the military, which melted away as the militants advanced.
Later, IS posted graphic images online that appeared to show its gunmen massacring scores of the soldiers after loading the captives onto flatbed trucks and then forcing them to lay face-down in a shallow ditch, their arms tied behind their backs. Other videos showed masked gunmen with the soldiers inside the presidential palaces complex in Tikrit, shooting them in the head and throwing them into the Tigris River.
After weeks of bitter clashes, Iraqi forces and allied Shi’ite militias, succeeded in retaking Tikrit from IS. Their victory was helped by US-led coalition airstrikes .
Amin said at least 12 bodies were exhumed on Monday. Lab tests will be carried out to match them with DNA samples already taken from families of around 85% of the victims.
Iraqi state TV showed forensic teams digging in an open area, helped by bulldozers as relatives stood nearby. The bodies were tagged with yellow tags while weeping soldiers and relatives lit candles and laid flowers
“The work is continuing and we expect to discover more mass graves in different areas,” Amin said. “We expect huge number of bodies to be unearthed.”
Last year, IS also carried out other mass killings, including the killing of 600 inmates was outside the country’s second-largest city of Mosul..
Also on Tuesday, the Islamic State group started broadcasting in English on the militants’ al-Bayan radio station, with a fluent English-speaking presenter.