BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A mass grave holding the remains of over 800 bodies, many believed to be opponents of ousted leader Saddam Hussein, has been discovered in western Iraq, a Human Rights Ministry spokesman said Thursday. Kamil Ameen said the grave, found in the desert of western Anbar province, Iraq's Sunni heartland, included remains of Kurds, Shias, women and children and was one of the bigger mass graves unearthed in recent years. "The grave consists (of people) from different sects. Initial reports indicated they were political opponents," Ameen told Reuters. "The number (of bodies) so far is 822 but it could increase. Our technicians expect the number to reach 900." Mass graves have been found regularly in Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Sunni dictator Saddam. Victims are often believed to be Kurds, against whom Saddam waged military campaigns in the 1980s and '90s, and Shias who staged an uprising in 1991. Ameen said the mass grave was believed to be from the 1980s as a government newspaper published in 1988 and medicine with an expiry date of 1984 had been found buried beside the victims. Other belongings discovered in the grave included religious prayer notes and pictures of Imam Ali, an icon for Shias, as well as clothes, plates, cups and spoons. Ameen said some of the remains were dressed in military uniforms, some in traditional Kurdish clothes and others in civilian wear. Many showed evidence of being shot in the head and some skulls had been smashed in, he said. Television footage showed teams from the ministry putting skulls and bones in plastic bags. Another official from the ministry said the grave covered 5 acres. "This issue is similar to the excavation of archaeological sites. We have to take care of the remains and things there because it helps in identifying the remains," Ameen said. "At the same time, we could find proof to help in taking the perpetrators to trial." Ameen said the ministry had been informed about the grave over a year ago but work on the site had only started three months ago. Iraqi and US human rights investigators said in 2003 they suspected Iraq had up to 260 mass graves containing the bodies of up to 300,000 people killed during Saddam's rule. In 2003, a mass grave containing more than 3,000 bodies was discovered near the farming community of Mahaweel, 60 km (35 miles) south of Baghdad.