Massacre Victims Exhumed In Bosnia
Friday, August 18, 2006
KAMENICA, Bosnia, Aug. 17 -- The bodies of more than 1,000 victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre have been exhumed from the largest mass grave found to date in Bosnia, forensic experts said Thursday.
Experts began digging in June near the eastern Bosnian village of Kamenica, close to the border with Serbia, where they have found eight other mass graves. The team has exhumed 144 complete and 1,009 partial skeletons.
"This is the largest mass grave so far found," said Murat Hurtic, head of the forensics team.
Along with the remains, experts found 14 documents indicating that the victims were killed in the massacre in Srebrenica, which became the site of Europe's largest mass execution since World War II when Serb troops in 1995 overran the eastern Bosnian enclave, which the United Nations had declared a safe zone.
As many as 8,000 Muslim men and boys were slain.
The excavation team said it found bullets mixed with body parts, and plastic and cloth bindings around the victims' arms.
The remains were heavily damaged, a typical feature of "secondary" mass graves to which victims' bodies are moved from an original burial site in an attempt to hide a crime, experts said.
Much of the moving was done with bulldozers, which complicates the identification process because parts of the same body can be found in two or three different mass graves, experts said.
Forensic teams have been uncovering mass graves throughout Bosnia in recent years, collecting the remains and extracting DNA to be matched with family members. Once a match is found, the body is returned to the family for burial.
Of the 3,500 bodies of Srebrenica victims excavated so far, 2,500 have been identified through DNA and about 2,000 buried in a cemetery in the Srebrenica suburb of Potocari, where the victims last were seen alive before being rounded up by Serb soldiers and taken for execution.