Monday, July 11, 2005; Posted: 3:40 a.m. EDT (07:40 GMT)
A Bosnian Muslim girl on Sunday stands inside a cemetery in Potocari, outside Srebrenica.
SREBRENICA, Bosnia (AP) — Thousands of survivors of Europe’s worst massacre of civilians since World War II will mark the 10th anniversary of the slaughter Monday by burying the newly identified bodies of some 610 victims.
Shortly before the end of the 1992-95 Bosnian war, Bosnian Serb soldiers overran Srebrenica — a U.N.-protected zone — and began a slaughter that left 8,000 Muslims dead, most of them men and boys. Their bodies were dumped in mass graves throughout eastern Bosnia.
Forensics experts so far have exhumed more than 5,000 bodies, 2,032 of which have been identified through DNA analysis and other techniques.
Up to 50,000 survivors, guests, international ambassadors and local officials were expected to gather for the burial of the new group of bodies at the Potocari memorial cemetery, where more than 1,300 Srebrenica victims are already buried.
The alleged masterminds of the July 11, 1995, massacre — Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic and his military commander, Gen. Ratko Mladic — have been indicted by the U.N. tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, for genocide and crimes against humanity at Srebrenica and elsewhere. Both are still at large.
Some 1,500 Bosnian Serb police were to guard the ceremony, but from a distance.
A high-ranking official from neighboring Serbia-Montenegro also planned to attend the service — a significant gesture given Serbia’s political and military backing of the Bosnian Serbs during the Bosnian war.
Srebrenica was brought back into focus in June when footage — apparently recorded by Serb troops — was broadcast worldwide showing Serb paramilitaries executing six Muslim men from Srebrenica. The footage showed that Serbs, and not just Bosnian Serbs, had taken part in the slaughter.
“I am going to Srebrenica to pay tribute to the innocent victims of the crime committed there,” Serbian President Boris Tadic said. “It is necessary to establish full trust and cooperation in the region. We have to break the circle of evil on the Balkans.”
Tadic has faced criticism from Serbia’s hard-line nationalists for his decision to attend the Srebrenica ceremonies on Monday.
Also expected to attend were members of Bosnia’s three-member presidency, which governs the country divided by a U.S.-brokered peace agreement into a Bosnian Serb ministate and a Bosnian-Croat Federation.
Other dignitaries planning to attend the ceremony include the top international administrator in Bosnia, Paddy Ashdown; the head of the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz, and the head of the U.N. war crimes court, Theodor Meron.
On Sunday evening hundreds of survivors who took part in a three-day memorial death march arrived in Srebrenica, having retraced the route some took to Muslim-controlled territory and freedom in 1995.
Some 250,000 people were killed in the 1992-95 war between Bosnian Muslims, Catholic Croats and Orthodox Serbs. About 16,500 bodies have been exhumed from more than 300 mass graves throughout the country.
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