News 05 Jun 07

Serbian Authorities Investigate Kosovo War Mass Grave

Serbian authorities have launched an investigation of a suspected mass grave site that could contain hundreds of bodies of ethnic Albanians killed during the bloody 1998-1999 Kosovo war, an official said Tuesday.

"Forensic teams are in the field and an investigation has been opened," said Bruno Vekaric, a spokesman for Serbia's Special War Crimes Prosecutor.

The investigators are probing an abandoned quarry near the southwestern town of Raska. The location is within a 2 kilometer-wide safety zone that separates Serbia from its breakaway Kosovo province.

Serbian media reported earlier that the suspected mass grave could contain between 300 and 500 bodies.

Kosovo is administered by the United Nations and has been under NATO protection since the 1999 bombing ousted Serbian troops from the province, forcing them to end a bloody crackdown against ethnic Albanian guerillas

More than 10,000 people were killed during the 1998-1999 Kosovo war and an estimated 100,000 fled the province in 1999.

According to media reports, Serbian police reburied the bodies of people killed throughout Kosovo in 1999 at the site near Raska in an apparent attempt to conceal evidence of atrocities.

The final status of Kosovo, which is still formally part of Serbia, remains unresolved, but the U.S. and European Union back a plan drafted by UN negotiator Martti Ahtisaari that stipulates internationally monitored independence.

Serbia and Russia oppose the plan. The government in Belgrade is instead offering Kosovo Albanians internationally monitored autonomy.

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