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Iraqis trained in mass grave recovery


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Human remains recovered from mass grave at Mahaweel, Iraq.
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A group of 34 Iraqi experts in a variety of fields are undergoing forensics training in Britain to investigate mass graves in Iraq, the British Embassy in Baghdad said.

The experts are drawn from the fields of archaeology and anthropology, among others. Part of their training program will involve field work using mock mass graves in the western county of Dorset.

International groups have estimated that more than 300,000 people died during the 24-year rule of Saddam Hussein, the embassy said earlier this week. Iraq's Human Rights ministry has identified 40 possible mass grave sites.

The program is funded by the British government, which commissioned the charity Inforce Foundation to design the training program and invested a million pounds in the project.

The first portion of the training, involving classroom and laboratory-based work at Bournemouth University, will be completed this month. The second portion, which will be completed in February will involve the two dummy graves, which contain about 60 plastic skeletons of adults, children and infants.

"Simulating mass graves for training purposes has never been undertaken before," said project coordinator Ronald Wessling.

"Hopefully, excavation in Iraq will begin next year and Iraqis will be able to start to come to terms with their past."

Volunteers said their first priority is to return the corpses to their families so they can be buried, but samples will be taken to provide evidence in case of any future trials.


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