Thursday, March 31, 2005

Serbia to return remains of 43 ethnic Albanians killed in Kosovo war - AP

(c) 2005. The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

PRISTINA, Serbia-Montenegro (AP) - Serbian authorities on Thursday were to return the bodies of 43 ethnic Albanians killed in the war in Kosovo, the government said.

The bodies, which were exhumed from mass graves, were to be handed over to authorities in Kosovo in the border area of Merdare, 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of the provincial capital, Pristina, the government's commission on missing people said in a statement.

About 836 bodies presumed to be those of ethnic Albanians killed during Kosovo's 1998-99 war and removed from the province in an apparent cover-up attempt by Yugoslav forces have been found in several mass graves in Serbia.

The bodies were exhumed after the 2000 ouster of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, but only 378 have been returned to their families in Kosovo so far, according to the office for missing persons and forensics.

The relatives of the missing have repeatedly demanded that all the bodies be returned immediately.

Earlier this month, Serbian and Kosovo officials resumed talks aimed at establishing the fate of ethnic Albanians, Serbs and others who vanished during the war -- one of the most sensitive and emotionally charged issues between the two former foes.

The two sides signed a framework document and agreed to accept the Red Cross list of 2,960 still missing as their figure of reference. The officials agreed to meet again on June 9 in Pristina.

Kosovo's war left an estimated 10,000 people killed, mostly ethnic Albanians. The conflict ended after NATO launched air strikes to halt the crackdown of Milosevic's troops on independence-seeking ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

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