CNN Mission: Peace

Bosnia graves

Who lies in those mass graves?

Bosnians brace for bad news as sites excavated

February 2, 1996
Web posted at: 10:50 p.m. EST (0350 GMT)

From Correspondent Rob Reynolds

JAJCE, Bosnia-Herzegovina (CNN) -- Hundreds of mass graves containing the butchered victims of war dot the once-picturesque hills of Bosnia. Today, the people of the region anxiously await word about who lies in those graves. They want to know if they conceal the bodies of loved ones who went missing during the nearly four-year war.

On a remote hillside in southwest Bosnia, a small team of forensic experts and military officials are trying to find some answers. As they dig away at the earth, they begin to uncover the remains of a massacre. They find the corpses of three Bosnian Croat soldiers believed to have been killed in a front line battle in 1992.

For one elderly man, it was news he dreaded hearing: His only son was among the dead.

"Some people told me he was taken to a hospital in Banja Luka. I knew it wasn't true, but you have to hope," he said. "Now there is no hope anymore."

Forensic pathologist Dr. Simun Andjelinovic says it is going to be difficult to identify all the bodies. "But from the point of view of the families and humanitarian aid, it's very important to just identify one body," he says. "If you're looking for someone, for you, it's very important that you can say, my son is dead." (85K AIFF sound or 85K WAV sound)

Quote Andjelinovic

Thousands of Bosnians are still waiting for that final word about their loved ones.

In Tuzla, angry crowds have protested for days, demanding information from the Bosnian government and international agencies. Many of them are Muslim refugees from Srebrenica, the town that fell to a Serb assault last spring. About 7,000 Muslim men from Srebrenica are still missing.


Today, the once-bustling Srebrenica is a shattered ghost town.

Its new inhabitants are mostly Serb refugees from Sarajevo and elsewhere. But their newly set up homes are not far from a series of suspected mass graves believed to hold the remains of thousands of missing Muslims.

The International War Crimes Tribunal says it has evidence of massacres ordered by Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic and military leader Ratko Mladic.

While a couple of suspected mass graves are the focus of intense scrutiny by the international community and news media, smaller graves -- containing people caught in the crossfire or killed in battle -- are hidden all across the countryside.

Some 30,000 people have disappeared since the war began in Bosnia. Investigations like the ongoing one will have to be repeated many times before even a fraction of the dead are accounted for.

Related stories:

Related Sites


Mission Peace nav bar

Copyright © 1996 Cable News Network, Inc.
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive