Secret grave of Muslim genocide victims found in Bosnia Bodies are believed those from Srebrenica massacre


KAMENICA, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- Deep in a remote rural stretch of Bosnia, war crimes investigators yesterday found a tangle of buried bodies that they say are some of the 7,500 Muslim men hidden in an effort to thwart the prosecution of Bosnian Serb leaders for genocide.

Investigators for the war-crimes tribunal contend that thousands of Muslims originally were buried near the Srebrenica execution sites, then dug up by earthmovers and moved to more than 10 places to hide the evidence.

Exhumations in 1996 recovered 480 bodies. Finding the others has been the goal of war-crimes investigators for more than two years.

The massacre was the worst war crime in Bosnia, and the worst in Europe in a half century, and raised added alarms because the town was being protected by the United Nations.

The discovery yesterday, in discolored earth riddled with land mines -- and the thousands of bodies that investigators expect to find nearby -- will bolster the cases against Radovan Karadzic, the wartime Bosnian Serb leader, and his military chief, Gen. Ratko Mladic, the investigators say. Both have been indicted for genocide by the tribunal in The Hague, the Dutch capital.

Many Bosnian Serbs have pointed to the absence of bodies as evidence that the men are still alive and that the cases against Karadzic and Mladic are only intended to malign the Serbian people.

Satellites that can locate bodies decomposing underground, according to foreign military officers working with the tribunal, aided the search. Witnesses to the reburial also offered testimony.

On what they considered one edge of the mass grave, forensic anthropologists and forensic archaeologists dug a trench early yesterday to gauge the length and depth of the grave. By early afternoon, the trench was 30 feet long, 6 feet deep, and growing.

Last night, according to a tribunal official, a layer of tangled bodies across an area of 200 square feet had been exposed. The bones were so intertwined, the official said, that it was not possible to exhume any of them yesterday.

"We will have hard and fast evidence that there was a large effort to conceal this horrible crime," said a tribunal official, who then said yesterday's discovery could produce more indictments. "You can't say all this was done by just a handful of people working on their own. This was organized and directed."

Pub Date: 5/13/98

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