Forensic experts said on Tuesday they have unearthed about 1,000 skeletal remains of Bosnian victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in a mass grave.
Documents recovered from the grave in this village dubbed “Death Valley” showed the victims were from Srebrenica, forensic experts said.
The eastern enclave was under United Nations protection when it was overrun by Bosnian Serb forces near the end of the 1992-95 war.
“Almost 90 percent of all remains had traces of bullet shots and some victims were blindfolded with rope-tied hands,” said Vedo Tuco, standing on the edge of a muddy grave where white-clad forensic pathologists marked and cleaned up bones.
Experts had hoped to complete the exhumations Wednesday but say the work which started two months ago will finish next week.
Tuco said some of the remains were of 14-to-15-year-old boys. The victims were killed at three locations near Srebrenica and transferred to the village of Kamenica from the original graves three months after the execution, he added.
More than 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed in Srebrenica. Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic, indicted on genocide charges for the atrocity, is still on the run.
Bosnian Serbs first buried the bodies near the execution sites but then dug out many of them with bulldozers and reburied them in “secondary” mass graves in an attempt to hide the crime.
“There is a complete chaos in this mass grave. Some of the remains that we found here will probably be re-associated with the bodies that we had exhumed from other mass graves discovered in this village,” Tuco said.
There are 12 mass graves in a strip of land about 7-km (four miles) long, located beside the sole road in this remote and almost deserted village, mainly on Muslim land. Mass graves unearthed earlier yielded around 3,000 body parts.
“They probably thought that nobody would ever return here and discover the crime,” Tuco said. He said another mass grave has been located in the village but digging will likely start in the spring because of bad winter weather.
About 5,800 victims of Europe’s worst atrocity since World War Two have been identified through DNA analysis but they can be reburied only after 70 percent of the bodily remains have been identified.
“The identification of the bodies we found here will probably take a long time because they are so dismembered and in bad shape,” Tuco said.
“It is therefore very important to dig out even the smallest body parts.”
Camila Mehmedovic, 61, a rare villager who returned to Kamenica after the war, mowed grass for her sheep from a nearby field before she learned there was a mass grave below.
“If I knew it would be like this, I would have never returned,” she said.
“Wherever I go the bones are being dug out and I cannot escape a smell of decaying bodies. This really is a Death Valley.”