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Iraqi Officials Find Mass Grave On Iraq Border With Syria

Iraqi officials Wednesday reported having found discovered a mass grave containing the remains of 34 persons, mostly believed to have been Iraqi army recruits waylaid three years ago by suspected al-Qaida gunmen as they traveled to a training base near the Syrian border, media reports said.

Last week, farmers alerted the authorities about the graves in the Euphrates River valley near Syria. The grave, about 200 miles northwest of Baghdad, contained the bodies of Iraqi army recruits from the city of Karbala, who were traveling by bus in September 2005 to a training camp in Qaim, when they were stopped and taken by al-Qaeda gunmen.

An official funeral procession has been held on the spot, with relatives of the recruits invited to come and identify their relatives, said the local mayor. "We paid all expenses to send the coffins to Karbala," he added.

The area where the grave was found was a well-known a hot spot for U.S. troops and their Iraqi allies, with al-Qaida and other Sunni militant groups active in smuggling weapons and recruits from Syria.

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