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Experts Find Guatemala Mass Graves

April 7, 1999

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) _ Forensic experts have discovered mass graves containing the remains of at least 40 villagers believed killed by army troops during Guatemala’s civil war, a human rights group said Tuesday.

The three graves were found during excavations over the past two weeks near Pentanaca, a former village in western Guatemala, according to the Association of Relatives of the Disappeared and Detained.

The forensic team from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese Human Rights Office is expected to conclude its excavations later this week.

Since 1992, the Catholic Church’s office and other groups have been digging up thousands of bodies buried in anonymous mass graves stemming from this Central American nation’s 36-year civil war.

The latest discovery came two months after a truth commission investigating war crimes blamed the army for the vast majority of the 200,000 deaths and disappearances during war, which ended with a peace agreement between leftist rebels and the government in 1996.

Human rights groups charge that the army turned scores of villages into ghost towns in the 1980s, killing many villagers and driving the rest away.

The Association of Relatives said one such site was Pentanac, about 100 miles northwest of Guatemala City. The group said the village was attacked on June 12, 1982, and residents were believed to have been massacred or fled.

The campaign was aimed at emptying villages suspected of providing support for the leftists rebels of the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity.

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