Kamil Amin, from Iraq's Human Rights Ministry, said the work started on Monday on eight locations inside Tikrit's complex of presidential palaces, where much of the killing is believed to have taken place.
    
IS militants overran Saddam Hussein's hometown last June, capturing around 1,700 soldiers as they were trying to flee Camp Speicher, an air base previously used by US troops on the outskirt of Tikrit.
    
The fall of Tikrit was part of the IS onslaught that stunned Iraqi security forces and the military, which melted away as the militants advanced and captured key cities and towns in the country's north and west.
    
Later, the Islamic State group posted graphic images online that appeared to show its gunmen massacring scores of the soldiers after loading the captives onto flatbed trucks and then forcing them to lay face-down in a shallow ditch, their arms tied behind their backs.
    
Other videos showed masked gunmen bringing the soldiers to a bloodstained concrete river waterfront inside the presidential palaces complex in Tikrit, shooting them in the head and throwing them into the Tigris River.
    
After weeks of bitter clashes, Iraqi forces and allied Shiite militias, succeeded in retaking Tikrit from the Islamic State.
    
Their victory was helped by US-led coalition airstrikes, which were not initially part of the operation.
    
Amin said that at least 12 bodies were exhumed on Monday. Lab tests will be carried out to match them with DNA samples that have already been taken from families of around 85 percent of the victims.
    
Iraqi state TV showed forensic teams digging in an open area, helped by bulldozers as family members stood nearby. The bodies were tagged with yellow tags while weeping soldiers and relatives lit candles and laid flowers alongside the covered remains. One clip showed unearthed skeletal remains still wearing combat boots.
    
"The work is continuing and we expect to discover more mass graves in different areas," Amin said. "We expect huge number of bodies to be unearthed."

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