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Kurds Detail Evidence of Iraqi Atrocities

In Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, seized records and mass graves support charges that Iraqi authorities killed thousands of Kurds

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THE Kurds, freed for now from Saddam Hussein's grip in northern Iraq, have uncovered mass graves, torture cells, videotapes, photographs, and piles of police reports that document numerous Iraqi atrocities.

The gruesome discoveries were seized from Iraqi secret police buildings in northern Iraq after the withdrawal of Iraqi troops and the establishment of a coalition security zone last spring north of the country's 36th parallel. And they add credence to Kurdish charges that the Iraqi authorities have killed thousands of Kurds over the last decade.

More than 4,000 Kurdish villages have been forcibly evacuated and destroyed by the Iraqis since 1976, and about 180,000 people have disappeared, Kurdish leaders say.

"We discovered what we always told the world about, but they didn't believe us," says Jalal Talabani, the leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). Mass graves uncovered

Kurdish officials have uncovered numerous mass graves across northern Iraq. In Kurdish-controlled Sulaymaniyah, about 200 bodies have been found in the last five months. Fifty victims of a chemical gas attack were found stuffed in white cloth bags in the village of Goptapa.

Another mass grave was excavated late last year near a former Iraqi military camp called Sardow, near Sulaymaniyah.

"They were shot and hidden under a street. They paved the road over them," explains Jamal Aziz Amen, a soft-spoken headmaster of a boy's school, who is also a PUK leader in Sulaymaniyah.

On Kalowa Hill, overlooking the city of Sulaymaniyah, workers drove shovels into the dry, coffee-colored earth early last month. Groups of women, many covered in swaths of black cloth and clutching photos of missing relatives, watched impassively.

The mass grave located next to what used to be an Iraqi prison is believed to hold dozens of bodies.

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