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Serbs Inspect Mass Grave Said to Contain Muslim Victims

July 18, 1996

CERSKA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ The first Bosnian Serb official to visit a mass grave site listened impassively Thursday as forensics experts described how more than 100 Muslims were lined up at the top of an embankment and shot to death.

``There were a lot of massacres in this area,″ the official was heard to reply, suggesting Bosnian Serbs were also killed in large numbers as the war drew to an end last year.

The mass grave, 17 miles northwest of Srebrenica in Bosnian Serb-held territory, is believed to hold the remains of Muslims who disappeared after Bosnian Serb forces overran the U.N.-protected enclave of Srebrenica.

A year later, nearly 7,000 people remain missing and are feared dead. Testimony from survivors and other evidence indicates most were massacred by the Bosnian Serbs in the war’s worst atrocity.

The Serbs say that any massacres of Muslims in the region were to avenge the earlier slaughter of hundreds of Serb villagers by Muslim troops.

Goran Neskovic, the deputy justice minister of the self-styled Bosnian Serb republic, visited the site more than two weeks after international war crime investigators began digging.

Serbs have said that most of the Srebrenica victims were soldiers who were shot while fighting _ an assertion disputed by forensics experts at the Cerska site.

The investigators say the victims found here had been lined up atop an embankment, their hands bound behind their backs with wire, and summarily executed.

Reporters were kept away during the conversation between forensics expert William D. Haglund and Neskovic; nonetheless they could overhear Haglund explaining his scenario of how the victims died.

``These people were lined up on this side of the road and then shot,″ Haglund told Neskovic. ``Everyone we’ve found so far was wearing civilian clothing.″

Haglund said his team had removed 134 sets of human remains so far, and expected to find about 150 victims in all.

The team probably would move the remains Saturday to an unnamed site on territory held by the Muslim-Croat federation for further examination and identification.

On Sunday, the team may begin preliminary work at nearby Nova Kasaba _ in an area identified last year by U.S. spy satellite photographs as possibly containing up to 2,700 bodies of Srebrenica victims.

The Cerska dig is being conducted by the U.N. war crimes tribunal, which has indicted Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his military commander Gen. Ratko Mladic for allegedly orchestrating widespread massacres during the 3 1/2-year war.

Investigators across Bosnia are attempting to locate an untold number of mass graves.

In western Bosnia, Bosnian forensic experts had dug up 10 decomposed bodies in civilian clothing from a mass grave in the village of Sasina near Sanski by Thursday, Associated Press Television reported. The grave reportedly holds the remains of about 70 Muslims killed in September.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, investigators uncovered 30 bodies of Muslim victims in Zerovanj, 15 miles northwest of Sarajevo, many with their hands tied.

And in the northwestern village of Kamen, near Glamoc, Serbs have been exhuming bodies of their soldiers and civilians from a mass grave in territory in the Muslim-Croat federation.