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Source:The Washington Post

Bosnian govt: Caves used as mass graves

CRVENA ZEMLJA, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- In a patch of thick forest off a bumpy
dirt road in the hills of northwestern Bosnia lies a network of caves.
Decades ago, thieves used the warren as a hideout and a drop for loot. Now,
Bosnian officials believe the caves store something more sinister -- the
bones of Muslim men murdered by Serbs.

Although "red earth" is the name given to this stretch of territory three
miles northwest of Kljuc, in reality the soil is black. And here, digging in
the rich earth that fills the caves, Bosnian soldiers have dug up bones over
the past few days.

Officials of the Muslim-led Bosnian government allege that two sites
unearthed in this small chunk of wilderness are part of a network of at
least three mass graves around the town of Kljuc, recently captured by
Bosnian Muslim troops. In all, U.N. spokesman Chris Gunness said yesterday,
40 such sites are alleged to be mass graves in the 1,300 square miles of
territory freed from Serb occupation since the offensive began 10 days ago.

If confirmed, the alleged mass graves would constitute the first such sites
verified in Bosnia. They would add weight to allegations that Bosnian Serb
forces committed widespread atrocities against Bosnian Muslims and Croats,
especially at the beginning of Bosnia's war in the late spring of 1992.

This summer, the Clinton administration released photos taken from U-2 spy
planes of what appeared to be freshly dug mass graves near the recently
overrun Muslim town of Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia. That area, however,
remains under Serb control and no outsiders have reached the site.

Bosnian Serbs do not dispute the fact that they placed hundreds, if not
thousands, of Muslim and Croat men in grim internment camps in this region
at the beginning of the war, but they denounce as "Muslim propaganda"
allegations that they executed these and other men.

The discovery of the purported graves has occurred against a backdrop of new
peace negotiations in the Balkans, which were resumed earlier this month
under pressure by the United States. The confirmation of such a discovery
would benefit the joint position of the Muslims and the Croats in any
negotiations by allowing them unequivocal possession of the moral high
ground in the talks.

So far, only several human bones, one boot and a woman's sweater have been
exhumed from the sites, according to Samira Mesic, the head of the pathology
unit of Bihac hospital. Formal mapping of the sites is to begin today, she
said, and further work, such as exhumations, would be carried out in
consultation with the International War Crimes Tribunal.

In interviews with two local residents who said they witnessed Serb
atrocities, it seems clear that horrible things happened around Kljuc in
late May and early June 1992, when Serb forces began expelling hundreds of
thousands of Muslims and Croats from northern Bosnia.

Senad Medanovic said he was at home June 1, 1992, when about 1,000 armed
Serb men roared into Prhovo, six miles northeast of Kljuc, and rounded up
everyone in the village.

"The people were gathered in front of our house because we had a store,"
Medanovic recalled. "When they started killing them, when I heard the
gunfire, I fled."

In the confusion, Medanovic lost three brothers and his sister, Enesa.