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Bosnia Serbs Say Two Mass Graves Reveal That Croats Massacred Civilians

April 09, 1996|From Associated Press

BANJA LUKA, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Mass graves uncovered in western Bosnia contain dozens of civilian Serbian victims of Croatian massacres, Serbian forensic experts said Monday.

A representative of the international war crimes tribunal at The Hague, international police and European Union monitors were present as Serbs exhumed 181 bodies in two mass graves at the Serbian Orthodox cemetery in the town of Mrkonjic Grad, 75 miles northwest of Sarajevo.

The tribunal representative refused to comment on the Serbs' findings from an eight-day investigation at the cemetery. Bosnian Croats never have answered the Serbian charges.

Serbs have been eager to show that, although blamed for most of the atrocities in the Bosnian war, they too suffered at the hands of Croats and Muslims.

In any case, Serbian officials said Monday that the evidence they unearthed in Mrkonjic Grad left little doubt that Croats killed Serbian civilians.

Zoran Stankovic, a Serbian forensics expert, told reporters that 102 of the corpses unearthed had smashed skulls, fractures, bullet holes at the back of the head from shots fired at close range and other signs of noncombat death.

"The head injuries alone say a lot about those who killed those people," he said.

Slightly more than half the bodies were in military uniform.

Bosnian Serbs had control over the town and parts of western Bosnia for most of the war, which began in 1992. Last fall, Croatian army and Bosnian Croat forces teamed up with the Muslim-led Bosnian army to take the town and adjacent territory.

It was returned to the Serbs as part of the Dayton, Ohio, peace agreement.

Serbs have claimed that along with extensive looting and burning of the area, Croats killed up to 300 Serbian civilians and captured soldiers.

The Serbian officials said 27 of the dead were more than 60 years old and that four corpses were decapitated.

Dozens of relatives of missing people stood nearby as officials exhumed the bodies.

Serbs also have said they found the charred remains of elderly people in houses in the Mrkonjic Grad area.

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