Forensic experts uncover mass grave in northern Bosnia

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- Forensic experts discovered a mass grave in northeastern Bosnia that may contain up to 100 bodies of Muslims killed at the end of the country's 1992-95 war, officials said Tuesday.

Murat Hurtic, a member of the Muslim Commission for Missing Persons, said the mass grave was found Monday near the Serb-held village of Kamenica, 45 miles northeast of Sarajevo.

"We believe they were Muslims killed in Srebrenica in 1995," Hurtic said.

Srebrenica was declared a U.N. "safe haven" during the end of Bosnia's war, and thousands of Muslims flocked there to escape Serb attacks. But Bosnian Serb troops later overran the town, rounding up and executing men and boys.

Up to 8,000 Muslims were believed killed in the massacre, considered Europe's worst since World War II. The remains of more than half of the victims have already been found in various mass graves in eastern Bosnia.

Hurtic said the newly discovered grave contained bodies that had been brought from graves elsewhere for reburial in an attempt to hide them from war crime investigators.

The preliminary investigation that occurred Monday showed it would not be possible to determine immediately exactly how many bodies are in the grave "because they were disintegrated somewhere else and then dumped into this mass grave."

"But there will be 100 for sure," Hurtic said. The final count on the number of victims will be determined after DNA tests are done, he said.

Also on Tuesday, another agency -- the International Commission on Missing Persons -- opened Bosnia's third DNA laboratory in the Serb administrative center of Banja Luka. The labs analyze DNA samples from surviving family members to match and identify victim remains.

Labs in Sarajevo and the northern town of Tuzla have identified around 550 victims during the last two years.

Ed Huffine, the international commission's director of forensic science, said the lab in Banja Luka will specialize in the most challenging cases, while labs in Sarajevo and Tuzla will continue to process the majority of cases.

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