Saturday, August 12, 2006

Another Srebrenica mass grave yields over 1,000 body parts


KAMENICA -- Another mass grave of Srebrenica victims has been uncovered in Bosnia.

Forensic experts unearthed 133 complete skeletons and more than 900 body parts of victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of Muslims at the biggest mass grave found in Bosnia.

The Jaz mass grave is the ninth site with the remains of Srebrenica victims to be found around the eastern village of Kamenica. Bodies were moved to the Jaz grave from the site of the massacre to conceal the traces of the crime.

"This is the biggest mass grave in Bosnia," Murat Hurtić of the Muslim-Croat federation's regional team for missing persons told Reuters at the site.

A 10-person team, including forensic experts from Canada and Serbia employed by the Bosnia-based International Commission on Missing Persons, worked in the 18-metre by 4-metre (60 ft by 13 ft) grave.

Dressed in white overalls, they sifted through mud in the grave's central part to recover skulls and bones, some complete and some mangled and fractured, as well as clothes and shoes.

The bodies were dug out from graves at the site of the massacre with bulldozers before being moved to Jaz, badly damaging many of the remains.

"We will continue with the exhumation for another two to three days and we expect to unearth more remains but it is difficult to estimate how many," Hurtić said.

He said it was difficult to estimate too how many bodies could be identified from incomplete remains, but added that it could be hundreds.

Bosnian Serbs captured the isolated Srebrenica enclave on July 11, 1995, rounding up Muslim men and boys as helpless Dutch UN soldiers stood by. Others were caught while trying to flee through woods.

About 8,000 were killed in summary executions and buried in dozens of graves in the wider region of Lower Drina Valley.

Some remains found at the Jaz mass grave belonged to victims killed and buried at the nearby Pilica farm, Hurtić said.

Bosnian Croat Dražen Erdemović, who admitted killing almost half of 153 Muslims executed at Pilica, was sentenced by the Hague-based UN war crimes tribunal in 1998 to five years' imprisonment. He has served the sentence.

The excavation team found many bullets, some of them lodged among the body parts, as well as plastic and cloth bindings around the victims' arms.

"We have also found many documents, fourteen of which could be read and they clearly show that the victims were people who disappeared in July 1995 in Srebrenica," Hurtić said.

About 2,500 Srebrenica victims have been identified and buried while remains in 3,500 body bags still await DNA identification.

Close to 40 people were charged for the massacre by the UN war crimes court and Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian courts. B92

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