BAGHDAD — An Iraqi court sentenced 24 militants to death Wednesday over the killing of hundreds of mainly Shiite soldiers during an ISIS offensive in northern Iraq last year.
As many as 1,700 soldiers were killed after they fled Camp Speicher, a former U.S. military base just north of Saddam Hussein's home town of Tikrit, and were rounded up by the Sunni Islamist fighters.
Video footage of the soldiers being gunned down in their hundreds, posted online by jihadists, could mark the deadliest single act of violence during a decade of intermittent sectarian war in Iraq.
The court issued the death sentences within hours of the start of the trial, based on what a spokesman described as strong evidence and confessions from the convicted men.
"Today the Iraqi central criminal court issued a death sentence against 24 people convicted of the Speicher massacre," said Abdul-Sattar al-Birqdar, spokesman for Iraq's Supreme Judicial Council.
He said all those sentenced were Iraqi nationals and another 604 suspects wanted in connection with the killings remained at large.
Tariq Harib, a leading Iraqi criminal lawyer who attended the session, said the sentences would be sent automatically to a higher court within a month for approval.
Iraqi soldiers and Shiite militia fighters recaptured Tikrit from ISIS militants three months ago, allowing the start of exhumations at 12 suspected mass graves thought to contain the bodies of the slain soldiers.
Video footage released a year ago showed bodies being dumped in the nearby Tigris river, suggesting that a definite death toll from the Speicher killings may never emerge.