Erbil, Sept. 7 - The remains of hundreds of Kurds killed under former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein are expected to be returned to Kurdistan Region in the coming days, says Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) minister of Anfal and Martyrs Affairs.anfalkraw

The remains of the 479 victims were found in mass graves in Diwaniyah province, 180 south of Baghdad, who were killed during the Anfal Operations in the 1980s by the Iraqi army.

"The excavation of all the mass graves in Diwaniyah have been finished. Tomorrow, we will start preparations for returning them to their home town for proper burial" Aram Ahmed told AKnews.

The victims were all from the Qadir Karam town, 60 km south east of Kirkuk. The oil-rich province of Kirkuk was subjected to an Arabization policy implemented by Saddam Hussein's regime where mainly local Kurds replaced by Arabs resettled from central and southern Iraq.

Anwar Omar, director of the mass graves at the ministry fo Anfal and martyrs affairs told AKnews that the remains of the Kurds found in Mahari 1 and Mahari 2 of the Diwaniyah mass graves were all Kurds killed during the 1988 phase of the Anfarl campaign.

Anfal, or Anfal Operations was a  series of military operations that began in 1986 and lasted until 1989, and was headed by Ali Hassan al-Majid. The Anfal campaign included the use of ground offensives, aerial bombing, systematic destruction of settlements, mass deportation, firing squads, and chemical warfare, which earned al-Majid the nickname of "Chemical Ali".

Anfal, officially conducted between February 23 and September 6, 1988, would have eight stages. Thousands of civilians were killed during the campaigns that stretched from the spring of 1987 through to the fall of 1988.

The attacks were part of a long-standing campaign that destroyed approximately 4,500 Kurdish villages in areas of northern Iraq and displaced at least a million of the country's estimated 3.5 million Kurds.

The Supreme Criminal Court of Iraq which was set up after the 2003 US led war against Iraq to try former members of Saddam Hussein's government, has recognized mass killings of Kurds by the former regime as genocide. This includes the chemical attack on the Kurdish city of Halabja in 1988 which killed 5,000 and left some 10,000 inured, as part of a military campaign known as Anfal.

According to the Iraqi prosecutors, as many as 182,000 Kurds were killed including women, aged, and children.

reported by Rebin Hasan, Edited by Raber Y. Aziz (