Remains of dozens found in Bosnia's largest grave

By Vesna Peric Zimonjic in Belgrade

29 July 2003

Bulldozers unearthed the remains of dozens of people

yesterday as investigators searched for about 700

missing Muslims in what is believed to be the biggest

mass grave in Bosnia.

The bones, dug up from an area the size of a tennis

court, are thought to include some of the 7,000 men

and boys who were slaughtered by Bosnian Serb forces

at Srebrenica eight years ago - Europe's worst

massacre since the Second World War.

"We believe the grave contains several hundred bodies

of 1995 Srebrenica massacre victims and those of

Zvornik civilians killed at the start of the war,"

said Murat Hurtic, a member of the Bosnian Commission

for Missing People. "It could be the largest mass

grave ever found in Bosnia."

The grave was found at Crni Vrh, near the town of

Zvornik, north of Srebrenica, and is believed to be a

site to which the bodies were moved from their

original burial places near Srebrenica. Bosnian Serbs

reburied victims to hide evidence of massacres from

the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague, which is

prosecuting those accused of atrocities in Balkan wars

of the 1990s.

Experts say the excavations will take about two

months, and expect the identification of the victims

to be a slow and complicated process, probably

requiring DNA analysis.

In July 1995, Srebrenica, which was protected by

lightly armed Dutch peace-keepers, was overrun by

Bosnian Serb forces who separated Muslim women from

the men and boys - thousands of whom were later


The mass grave was found in a mountainous area near

the border with Serbia. It is close to the former

front line and was surrounded by minefields. Soil

samples from the site indicate the grave may also

contain victims from a separate massacre at the start

of the Bosnian war, which began in 1992.

Experts say they were tipped off about the site by a

person who witnessed the re-burial of victims, but its

whereabouts were kept secret for more than a year to

prevent any tampering with evidence.

So far, the remains of more than 6,000 Muslim men and

boys have been found in 60 mass graves in the area.

The biggest grave contained 500 bodies. Kathryne

Bomberger, from the International Commission for

Missing Persons (ICMP), in Sarajevo, said: "We're

working on trying to find evidence of identification

of these remains, so that we can return the mortal

remains to the families."

Drazen Erdemovic, the first Bosnian Serb army member

to admit taking part in the Srebrenica massacre, is

due to testify on the crime later this week. He is

expected to be a witness for the prosecution in the

tribunal's case against the former Yugoslav leader

Slobodan Milosevic, who is accused of genocide in

Bosnia. The trial of Mr Milosevic was halted again

yesterday because of the defendant's poor health.

The ICMP said earlier this month that 1,000 bodies of

Srebrenica victims had been identified through DNA


Two men accused of responsibility for the Srebrenica

massacre, Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb wartime

leader, and Ratko Mladic, his army commander, remain

at large. 


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