Bosnia mourns victims of Srebrenica massacre

More than 500 newly identified victims to be buried on anniversary of worst mass murder in Europe since World War II.

    A Bosnian woman cries among 520 caskets in preparation for a mass burrial ceremony [AFP]
    A Bosnian woman cries among 520 caskets in preparation for a mass burrial ceremony [AFP]

    On the 17th anniversary of Europe's worst massacre since World War II, thousands of people from around Bosnia and the world are gathering in the town of Srebrenica to attend a funeral for 520 newly identified victims.

    The remains of the victims, exhumed from several mass graves around Srebrenica and recently identified using DNA analysis, will be laid to rest on Wednesday in the town now synonymous with genocide.

    Crowds started gathering in Potocari, near Srebrenica, on Tuesday on the eve of the killing of 8,000 men and boys by Serb forces in July 1995.

    The coffins are already at the memorial centre and the burial pits have been dug. A group of marchers reached Srebrenica on Tuesday following three-day march through the hills of eastern Bosnia.

    They had been retracing backwards the path some 15,000 Bosnians from Srebrenica took in 1995 in an attempt to escape from Serb forces.

    Ambulances were also standing ready to help those among the tens of thousands for whom the event will be too much to handle.

    Srebrenica was a UN-protected Muslim town in Bosnia besieged by Serb forces throughout Bosnia's 1992-95 war.

    Serb troops led by General Ratko Mladic overran the enclave in July 1995, separated men from women and executed 8,000 men and boys within just a few days.

    Dutch troops stationed in Srebrenica as UN peacekeepers were undermanned and outgunned, and failed to intervene.

    The bodies of the victims are still being found in mass graves throughout eastern Bosnia. The task has been made even more difficult by the fact that the perpetrators dug up mass graves and reburied remains in other mass graves to try to cover their tracks.

    The victims have been identified through DNA analysis and newly identified ones are buried at the Srebrenica memorial centre every year.

    So far, over 5,000 Srebrenica victims found this way have been laid to rest.

    Mladic was arrested last year in Serbia and is on trial now at the tribunal in The Hague. He faces 11 charges, including genocide, for allegedly masterminding Serb atrocities throughout the war that left 100,000 dead, especially the Srebrenica massacre. He denies wrongdoing.

    But despite the charges, Mladic remains a national hero to many Serbs.

    In Washington, President Barack Obama issued a statement honoring the memory of the "8,000 innocent men and boys" who were massacred in Srebrenica.

    "The name Srebrenica will forever be associated with some of the darkest acts of the 20th century," Obama said.

    Obama said the US "rejects efforts to distort the scope of this atrocity, rationalise the motivations behind it, blame the victims, and deny the indisputable fact that it was genocide".

    SOURCE: Agencies


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