24 sentenced to death for massacre of Iraqi soldiers

Baghdad, July 8 (IANS) An Iraqi court on Wednesday sentenced 24 people to death over charges of killing about 1,700 soldiers when the Islamic State (IS) militants seized the city of Tikrit, the capital of Salahudin province, in June 2014, a judicial spokesman said.

“The Central Criminal Court issued a verdict on Wednesday to execute 24 defendants by hanging after it was proved that they were involved in the Speicher massacre,” said Abdul Sattar al-Biraqdar, spokesman for Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council.

The accused were found guilty as the evidences were enough for their conviction, Biraqdar said, adding that the court also released four other defendants for lack of evidence, Xinhua news agency reported.

In June 2014, armed Sunni insurgents, spearheaded by the IS group, launched a surprise offensive on Iraqi security forces and captured a large part of the country’s northern and western territories after Iraqi troops abandoned their posts and military equipment.

Reports said that among thousands of soldiers who abandoned their bases in June, some 1,700 soldiers walked out of an air base, known as Camp Speicher north of Tikrit, and were abducted and killed by the extremist IS militants.

The IS group later posted videos and images showing its gunmen loading dozens of soldiers in civil uniforms in several trucks and forcing them to lie on the ground with their faces down and opening fire at them. Some were shown dragged to the edge of the Tigris river and thrown in the water after being shot in the head.

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