news 16 Jul 12

Fire Suspends Kosovo Exhumations

Work at the largest suspected mass grave to be found in Kosovo for many years was suspended on Monday after a fire broke out at the site in Zhilivoda.

Fatmir Aliu

The exhumation of a potential mass grave in Zhilivoda, was interrupted on Monday after a fire broke out at the site, says the EU Rule of Law Mission to Kosovo, EULEX.

EULEX’s spokesperson, Blerim Krasniqi, told BIRN that the fire broke out on Saturday and that the cause is still unknown.

“The fire has yet to be fully controlled. The police have sealed off the site, and are looking at what may have caused it,” Krasniqi said.

The fire-fighters have already spent two days fighting the blaze  at the exhumation site.

The exhumation at Zhilivoda, a small village in the municipality of Vushtrri/Vucitrn began on August 31, 2010.

Since then, the work has twice been interrupted by bad weather conditions. The area is one of the biggest potential exhumation sites discovered in Kosovo in the past few years.

Because of the size of the area, the EULEX Department of Forensic Medicine is logistically supported by the Kosovo Security Forces, KSF, who are using their heavy machinery to reach some 30 meters underground where the alleged mass grave is located.

There are no official figures concerning the number of bodies in the mass grave but a Belgrade delegation said recently that it suspects that the remains of more than 20 Kosovo Serbs may be found there.

In the last two weeks, EULEX and Kosovo forensics have handed over the remains of nine Kosovo Serbs, who had been missing since the 1999 war in the former Serbian province.

Some of the recovered war victims were buried in Prizren and Vitina, while other families took their relatives back to Serbia for burial.

EULEX forensic experts plan to assess more than thirty suspected sites of mass graves this year, as part of their ongoing search for missing people from the Kosovo war and its aftermath. The plan is to conduct site assessments and exhumations in the regions of Gjakova, Peja, Klina, Prizren, Mitrovica, Skënderaj, and Podujevo.

Thirteen years after the end of the war in Kosovo, 1,700 of the 6,019 people reported missing to the International Red Cross by their families are still unaccounted for. The majority of the missing are Kosovo Albanians.


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