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Bosnia digging up what could be biggest mass grave

| Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013, 9:36 p.m.

TOMASICA, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Two decades after Serb soldiers conducted house-to-house searches in a campaign of ethnic killings in Bosnia, forensic scientists are digging up what could turn out to be the largest mass grave from the 1992-95 war.

So far, the remains of 360 people have been found at the Tomasica mass grave discovered in September near the northern town of Prijedor, far more than expected, authorities said on Thursday.

The number is expected to rise and could surpass the 629 bodies found at Crni Vrh in Srebrenica.

The Missing Persons' Institute said the Tomasica grave is linked to a secondary one found in 2003 about six miles away, where 373 bodies were extracted. Authorities believe the perpetrators of the killings moved parts of the remains from one grave to the other to hide the crime. In some cases, remains from a person have been found in both graves.

Institute official Mujo Begic said he expects more remains to be found at Tomasica .

“Together with the relocated ones, the number of the bodies here indicates the biggest mass grave so far found in Bosnia,” Begic said.

The grave covers more than 53,820 square feet and is about 30 feet deep.

Tomasica is near Prijedor, which was a site of severe crimes against humanity committed by Christian Orthodox Serbs against Muslim Bosniaks and Catholic Croats. Many of the victims were killed in one of the three Nazi-style concentration camps Serb authorities had set up near Prijedor. Authorities hope some of the 1,200 still missing from the area are found in the Tomasica grave. The remains will be identified through DNA matching from samples provided by living relatives.

Most of the victims were killed in their villages and brought to this location to be buried, but teams have also found bullets in the grave, which indicates that some were brought here alive, prosecutor Eldar Jahic said.

Near the grave, Vahida Behlic, 51, was sobbing as she watched forensic experts dressed in white uniforms and green rubber boots carefully lifting bones from the site, where skeletons were piled on top of each other. She came from Slovenia, where she has lived with her family since she escaped her native village of Zecovi, near Prijedor.

Behlic came because she thinks one of the skeletons could be of her mother Fatima, who was shot in front of her house.

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