Thousands of relatives from Bosnia and across Europe gathered in collective Islamic prayer for the mainly Muslim Bosniak victims, including 21 members of the same family, on a soccer field in the northwestern town of Kozarac.
Coffins draped in green cloth lined the pitch.
“I think we will be at peace tomorrow, when all this is over,” said Amela Kadiric, who came from the Netherlands to bury her father and three uncles, killed in a wave of Serb ethnic cleansing during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war.
Around 100,000 people died in the conflict, which scattered Bosnians across the globe. Asked how many members of her extended family had been killed, Kadiric replied: “Nobody knows.”
The remains of more than 430 people have been found so far in the Tomasica grave near the town of Prijedor. The grave was deep, and the soil mostly clay, meaning there was relatively little decomposition among many of the bodies.
Witness accounts suggest around 1,000 people were tossed into the gruesome death pit but later dug up and reburied elsewhere as part of a systematic bid to conceal evidence of atrocities.
The Prijedor region was a stronghold of ultra-nationalist Serb forces who killed more than 3,000 Muslim Bosniaks and Catholic Croats there and drove tens of thousands from their homes.
Some were tortured and killed in notorious Serb-run detention camps, while others died in their homes, crimes for which 16 Bosnian Serbs have been sentenced by a special U.N. war crimes tribunal to a total of 230 years in prison.
Almost twenty years since the war ended, Bosnia remains deeply divided, split into two autonomous regions joined by a weak central government. Feuding along ethnic lines continues to thwart the country’s ambitions of joining the European mainstream.
Bosnia’s autonomous Federation, made up of mainly Bosniaks and Croats, declared Sunday an official day of mourning. The Serb Republic did not. (Reuters)