Iraqi authorities have uncovered a mass grave near the city of Diwaniyah containing the remains of 900 people, believed to be Kurds killed during Saddam Hussein’s rule.

The news echoes a similar discovery made in April where a mass grave containing over 800 bodies, including women and children, was found in the Anbar province of western Iraq.

‘The corpses were buried in a trench. There were 900 bodies,’ said Dakhil Saihoud, provincial head of the Justice and Accountability Commission which investigates issues related to Mr Hussein's regime.

‘Initial indications show the remains are those of Kurds. They were transferred to laboratories in the city of Najaf to help in identification,’ he said, adding that the corpses appeared to date back to the 1980s.

During Iraq's 1980-1988 war with Iran deserters were executed and the then Iraqi dictator intensified a crackdown on Shiites suspected of sympathising with the country’s predominantly Shiite neighbour.

Kurds were persecuted because they were the main opposition to Mr Hussein's rule.

The number of people missing as a result of atrocities committed under Mr Hussein, who came to power in 1979, is estimated at anywhere between 300,000 and 1.3m according to various sources.

Human rights groups believe there are hundreds of mass graves in Iraq of people killed during his rule.

Shortly after the 2003 invasion, the US-led coalition said there were 263 reported mass graves of people executed in Iraq under Mr Hussein, including 40 containing evidence of systematic killings.