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U.N. Probing Possible Mass Grave in Bosnia

July 08, 1996|From Reuters

CERSKA, Bosnia-Herzegovina — War crimes investigators, their suspicions hardened by exploratory diggings, on Sunday secured the site of a possible mass grave of Muslims believed slaughtered by Serbian forces last year in eastern Bosnia.

The war crimes team started marking off the site, called Cerska, on an embankment of a dirt road in a remote mountain forest roughly 19 miles west of Srebrenica.

Digging will take place under a security net provided by U.S. troops backed by Bradley armored fighting vehicles and four-wheel-drive Humvees armed with machine guns in case of threats from local Serbs, who oppose the excavation in order to protect their leaders.

A U.N. tribunal has indicted Bosnian Serb army commander Gen. Ratko Mladic and Serbian political leader Radovan Karadzic on charges of genocide, but both remain at large.

The 20-strong U.N. team has a seven-ton backhoe digger; it will be the first time heavy earthmoving equipment has been used in searching.

Late in May, a small team partially excavated three trenches that revealed human remains.

The U.N. experts, trying to learn the full dimensions of what may have been Europe's worst war atrocity since the Holocaust, expect that their grueling and grisly work will take several weeks.

At least 3,000, and possibly as many as 8,000, mostly unarmed Muslims are believed to have been killed after nationalist Bosnian Serb forces overran Srebrenica, a supposed U.N. "safe area" in eastern Bosnia-Herzegovina, a year ago.

Survivors, testifying at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague, have placed Mladic at the scene of mass shootings.

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