News 11 Oct 16

Mystery Mass Grave Found in Macedonia Politician’s Yard

An old mass grave, believed to date from the Second Balkan War, was discovered near the family house of Ali Ahmeti, the head of Macedonia’s junior ruling party, the Democratic Union for Integration.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic, Elena Andonovska
Democratic Union for Integration leader Ali Ahmeti in Zajas. Photo: Zajas municipality (archive).

Exhumations are continuing after the authorities discovered the grave this week in an abandoned well in the yard of the Ahmeti’s family house in the village of Zajas in western Macedonia, close to the town of Gostivar.

The head of the exhumation team, Musli Musliu, told media that the human remains found in the grave are “believed to date back to 1913”, the year of the Second Balkan War, and that “preliminary findings suggest that the bodies were first burned before being buried”.

Musliu said that according to preliminary estimates, the mass grave may contain the remains of anything from ten to 60 people and that it is believed that the victims are predominantly local ethnic Albanian residents.

The Gostivar prosecutor’s office also visited the site on Monday, and said that forensic work on the remains as well as excavations at the site will continue.

However, Musliu told media that if the investigation does show that the human remains belong to local ethnic Albanians who perished in the Balkan War, they would most probably be buried in a recently opened Albanian Balkan War memorial centre which is located near the village.

In 2013, all the Democratic Union for Integration party’s leaders, including Ahmeti, attended the opening of the memorial near Zajas, dedicated to some 500 Albanians from the region who perished during the Second Balkan War and who are believed by some to have been executed by Serbian forces.

The village of Zajas is also Ahmeti’s birthplace.

During the opening of the memorial in Zajas, Ahmeti’s brother, Vedat, said that according to village legend, the well at their family house may be hiding some 40 bodies.

“You can imagine what kind of ordeal Zajas went through [during the Balkan wars] when even six weeks after the killing, the area was still full of mothers and wives mourning for their loved ones,” Vedat Ahmeti told the Dnevnik newspaper at the time.

Unlike in the First Balkan War of 1912, when several Balkan states fought side-by-side to oust the weakened Ottoman Empire from the Balkan peninsula, the Second Balkan War broke when Bulgaria attacked Serbia and Greece, unhappy over its share of spoils in Macedonia from the first war.

Much of the conflict, which was tainted by frequent massacres on all sides, took place on what was then the geographical region of Macedonia, of which only one part is today’s Republic of Macedonia.

Albanian and Serbian scholars have conflicting views about whether or not the Serbian army and paramilitaries committed massacres of Albanians in Kosovo, Macedonia and Albania during the wars.

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