PRISTINA, Serbia-Montenegro (AP) - Serbian authorities on Wednesday returned the remains of about 45 ethnic Albanians killed during the Kosovo war, a forensic expert said.
The remains are believed to be those of ethnic Albanian civilians killed by Serb forces during the 1998-1999 war and removed from Kosovo in an apparent cover-up attempt by former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.
The remains were handed over to the U.N. authorities in the border area of Merdare, 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of the provincial capital, Pristina.
Once transferred to Kosovo, the authorities will conduct an additional examination before the bodies are given to the families for burial. The victims are believed to be from across the province.
Out of some 836 bodies of Kosovo Albanians found in mass graves in Serbia, 661 have been returned to their families, said Arsim Gerxhaliu, of the office for missing persons and forensics. The families have repeatedly demanded that all the war dead exhumed be returned immediately. Nearly 3,000 people are still listed as missing from the conflict.
The bodies were mainly exhumed from a Serb police training center just outside Belgrade.
NATO launched a bombing campaign in 1999 to halt the crackdown of Milosevic's troops on independence-seeking ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. Since then it has been administered by the United Nations.
Hundreds of bodies recovered from mass graves in Kosovo and Serbia are awaiting identification by matching DNA from bone samples with that of the relatives of missing people.
The fate of the missing is one of the most sensitive and emotionally charged issues between the two former foes.
The two sides have been seeking solutions in several meetings since earlier this year when Serbian and Kosovo officials resumed talks aimed at establishing the whereabouts of ethnic Albanians, Serbs and others who vanished during the war.