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Serbia finds another mass grave of Kosovo victims

By Editor   |   11 May 2010   |   12:32 pm  
A MASS grave containing the bodies of an estimated 250 ethnic Albanians who were killed in Kosovo during its war in 1998-99 has been discovered in Serbia.

Officials, according to the Associated Press (AP) said the mass grave would be the sixth found in Serbia since 2001, and it would be the second largest should the estimate be confirmed.

Hundreds of bodies of slain ethnic Albanians have been exhumed in Serbia in the past several years and returned to Kosovo.

About 10,000 people were killed during the Kosovo conflict, which erupted after Serbia moved to crush a rebellion there by independence-seeking ethnic Albanian rebels. The brutality of Serbia’s crackdown prompted the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) to bomb the country in 1999, forcing Milosevic to pull out his troops. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Belgrade refuses to recognize it.

During the Kosovo war, the bodies of Kosovo victims were brought to Serbia by the regime of late President Slobodan Milosevic in an attempt to cover up the atrocities against civilians.

The discovery of mass graves became possible after Milosevic was ousted from power in 2000 by pro-Western forces. He died in 2006 while on a genocide trial at the UN tribunal.

“According to witness testimonies, there are 250 bodies of Kosovo Albanians inside” the newly discovered grave, Serbia’s war crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic yesterday said at a news conference in Belgrade, Serbia’s capital.

He said exhumations would begin soon at the site, which was discovered based on witness accounts and in cooperation with a European Union mission in Kosovo.

Serbia’s war crimes prosecutor’s office said the grave is located in a hilly, rural area of Rudnica, near the town of Raska, 180 kilometres (108 miles) south of Belgrade.

Aerial photos of the site showed a house and a small parking lot near a road nestled between the hills. Vukcevic’s deputy, Bruno Vekaric, said the mass grave is believed to be located beneath the building and the parking lot.

Officials did not say when the grave was discovered.

Serbia has since tried to deal with its wartime past as it seeks EU membership.

Vukcevic said, “Serbia has the democratic capacity to face what happened.” He said, “It is our obligation to the victims who have the right to bury the dead.”

In Kosovo, officials yesterday urged Serbia to face up to its past and overcome its troubled relations with Kosovo Albanians.

“It is painful news,” Xhavit Beqiri, the spokesman for Kosovo’s president, said of the discovery of the bodies.

“We suspect there are more Kosovo victims in other such mass graves around Serbia which Belgrade has always known about, but has selectively unearthed them to reduce the scope of the crimes committed in Kosovo,” he said.



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