Human remains found in a suspected mass grave in Serbia

PRISTINA Fri Dec 13, 2013 11:37am EST

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PRISTINA (Reuters) - Human remains believed to be the bodies of hundreds of Albanians killed during the 1998-99 war in Kosovo have been found just inside the Serbian border, a Kosovo official said on Friday.

More than 14 years after the war ended, Kosovo officials have been pressing Serbia to continue to look for bodies on its territory that may have been moved by Serbian forces trying to cover up killings of majority ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

"For many years, we have cooperated with informers and they told us that there may be more than 250 bodies, they even mention there may be 400 bodies," Prenk Gjetaj, the head of Kosovo's state commission for missing persons, said.

Some 10,000 people are believed to have died in the crackdown by Serbian police and army on ethnic Albanian rebellion in its former province, which were halted when NATO launched air strikes against Serbia in 1999.

Most victims were Albanians. More than 1,700 people are still missing.

The investigation leading to the discovery was a joint effort by Kosovo, Serbia and the EULEX, the EU's justice and police mission in Kosovo.

Officials from Kosovo and Serbia are expected to meet soon to discuss how to proceed with further excavations. The war crimes prosecutor's office in Belgrade declined to comment.

The bodies were found after excavators removed the concrete pavement in the yard of a road maintenance company in Rudnica, just inside southern Serbia, near its border with Kosovo.

Gjetaj did not say how many bodies were found but said a big office building on the site had to be destroyed during the dig.

If confirmed, it would be the sixth mass grave found since 2000. The largest, containing the bodies of more than 800 Kosovo Albanians, was found in 2001 in pits at a police training ground outside Belgrade.

Kosovo declared independence in 2008, but relations with Serbia have only started to normalize in the past year, after the EU brokered a deal to integrate the mainly Serb north with the rest of Kosovo. In exchange, Serbia was offered talks on EU membership, expected to start in January.

(Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; Editing by Zoran Radosavljevic and Alison Williams)

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