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New Mass Grave Found

In Northwest Bosnia Cave
As Many as 120 Bodies of Muslims
and Croats May be Buried There

(LUSCI PALANKA, Bosnia-Herzegovina—AP) A suspected mass grave has been found in a deep cave in northwestern Bosnia near one of the worst Serb death camps. Investigators say it could contain the remains of up to 120 Muslims and Croats. In an apparent attempt to conceal the grave, someone threw the bodies of animals and rubbish on top of the human remains and set off an explosion at the cave, a Bosnian war crimes researcher says. The Bosnian government war crimes committee, which found the site near the village of Lusci Palanka, claimed the animal remains were a ploy by the Serbs to mask the cave’s true horrors.

The committee gave Associated Press Television a videotape showing the inside of a deep cave containing piles of bones. One of the researchers was shown holding what he said was part of a human spine. Another Bosnian war crimes researcher, Refik Hodzic, spoke to APTV last weekend from the site. "The problem is that the site of the cave has been ruined by a big detonation... by whoever tried to cover the traces of this crime," he said. "On top of it they have thrown bodies of animals and rubbish, so it would be very hard to find the remains of the bodies under all that stuff," Hodzic said. He estimates there are up to 120 bodies in the cave.

Cave is Near Omarska Detention Camp
The cave is near Omarska, one of the most notorious Serb-run camps. The detention camp was closed in late 1992 following international outrage over pictures of emaciated inmates. 11,500 people are missing from Omarska. Survivors of the camp claim prisoners were brutally killed on a daily basis. Bosnian authorities believe that two busloads of men who dissapeared from the Omarska camp on the eve of its closure could be buried in Lusci Palanka.

Jadranka Cigelj, a Bosnian Croat lawyer who survived Omarska and now lives in Zagreb, Croatia, gathers evidence to help war crimes investigators. She said large trucks would drive away bodies daily "in a direction unknown to us at the time .... those who died during the day of their injuries, and at night those who were killed. On average there were 20 to 30 bodies every day," she said.

Cigelj accused two Bosnian Serbs of being directly responsible for the deaths: Mirko Babic, who was in charge of the Omarska mine at the time and Zeljko Mejakic, commander of security at the camp. Both are among the 53 people indicted by an international war crimes tribunal based in The Hague. "They often sent us to clean... the blood. The walls, the furniture, the floors—everything was sprayed with blood,—Cigelj recalled.

Survivor Told of Burial Site
Bosnian authorities said they had known for some time of the existence of the suspected grave site near Lusci Palanka from a man who claimed to have survived a shooting there. But the site was only recently discovered. Bosnian officials hope that exhumation of the grave site and others in the area could start next month as the ground thaws. Exhumation of suspected mass grave sites is considered crucial to determining what happened to the 27,000 people reported missing in Bosnia’s war.

The head of the Bosnian war crimes committee, Bekir Gavrankapetanovic, said excavations have to be coordinated with the war crimes tribunal. Tribunal spokesman Christian Chartier said it is interested in participating in exhumations "if graves are related to ongoing investigations or indictments."

Additional resources
International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

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