BELGRADE, March 1 (Reuters) - Serbia has arrested two people suspected of killing in 1999 three imprisoned Albanian brothers who were American citizens, a Serbian court said on Wednesday.
The bodies of the three brothers of the Bitici family -- Agron, Mehmet and Ilijem -- were found in 2001 in mass graves alongside Kosovo Albanian victims trucked over to Serbia during the 1998-99 conflict in the province of Kosovo.
The three brothers strayed into Serb-controlled territory in Kosovo in 1999 and were sentenced to 17 days imprisonment but when they were released they were taken away and shot, human rights activists say.
The graves were discovered by reformers after they ousted former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who is on trial at the U.N. war crimes tribunal in the Hague for atrocities committed in Kosovo, Bosnia and Croatia.
"Acting on the request of the war crimes prosecutor the investigative judge interrogated the suspects and decided to launch an investigation against them and remand them in custody," the district court said in a statement.
The U.S. embassy in Belgrade welcomed the arrests.
"We applaud the Serbian authorities for taking this important step toward bringing this investigation to a close, and hope all individuals involved -- regardless of their current or previous rank or position ... will be rapidly brought to justice," it said in a statement.
It was the second round of arrests in connection with the discovery in 2001 of three pits with remains of more than 800 victims of the 1998-99 Kosovo war.
Nine Serb policemen were arrested in October last year for the murder of 48 Kosovo Albanians found buried in one of the largest graves near Belgrade. The Bitici brothers were found in a smaller pit in Petrovo Selo, in eastern Serbia.
The Serbian war crimes prosecutor's office said in a separate statement it had worked during the two-year investigation into the case with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) because the brothers were American citizens.
Serbia set up its own war crimes court in 2003 to show it can deal with nationals who committed war crimes during the 1990s and is cooperating with the U.N. tribunal.