Berserkistan Navigator Bodies of Bosnian Croats Killed by Muslims are Exhumed at Odzak

MAP: Odzak Odzak, Bosnia-Herzegovina, June 3 (AP) -- Workers pulled 11 decomposed bodies from a gravesite Monday in what was believed to be the first exhumation of Bosnian Croats killed by Muslims in the Bosnian war. A group of Croat women dressed in black cried out in mourning as the workers passed up 11 black bags containing brown-hued skulls and bones and rotted clothing. Forensic specialists watched by international officials cataloged the remains for an investigation aimed at identifying them and determining how they died.

The two dozen Bosnian Croats who gathered at the hillside cemetery in Odzak village, 50 miles west of Sarajevo, said the remains were loved ones killed when fighting between Muslims and Croats erupted in the area in July 1993.

"We were sure for the last few years that he was buried here. We had no doubts," Ana Keskic, 71, said of her missing son, Zdravko. "Iíd like to see my sonís body. I hope Iíll be able to identify him. If there are only bones, what can I do?"

Few clues were available from the remains found on Monday in the concrete tomb. The bodies appeared to have been dumped in the 10-foot-deep vault covered by a heavy iron door. Some bodies clearly wore military uniforms and boots. "We just saw some gunshot wounds to the head," said Dr. Simun Andjelinovic, a forensic pathologist from Croatia. "Most of these bodies are skeletonized."

Some Bosnian Croats from the area believe Muslims carried out execution-style killings of people they rounded up when fighting began. Croats have also been accused of atrocities. Like other parties to the 3Ĺ-year war, they are anxious to draw attention to atrocities committed by others. The exhumation was believed to be the first of Bosnian Croats allegedly killed by Muslims in the Bosnian war.

The exhumation was arranged by Bosnian Croat officials who spread word to relatives of those believed buried in the vault. The families are living as far away as northern Croatia. Ivo Marincic, 58, traveled 120 miles to see if the body of his son, Stipo, was in the tomb. He said Stipo died in fighting when the villageís Muslim majority overran the Croat minority.

Muslim-Croat fighting in central Bosnia erupted in March 1993. It sometimes surpassed Serb-Muslim or Serb-Croat fighting in ferocity and ended only with a U.S.-brokered truce a year later. The area has remained under Muslim control, which the Bosnian Croats said prevented them from recovering the bodies sooner. But one Croat man who visited his fatherís grave in the same cemetery in May 1995, accompanied by Muslim police, said he and his wife sneaked a look in the vault then because of rumors the bodies were there.

"We opened it just a little and big flies flew out," said Ivica Peric, 36. When he looked into the vault on Monday, he said the bodies looked different, as though they had been moved or set on fire. Andjelinovic, the forensic pathologist, said a fire in the vault had charred some of the remains. He refused to speculate whether a fire could have been set to try to destroy evidence.

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