Serbia returning remains of 41 ethnic Albanian war victims

Serbian authorities were to return the remains of 41 ethnic Albanian war victims to Kosovo on Friday, a United Nations official said. The bodies belong to ethnic Albanian civilians believed to have been killed by Serb forces during the 1998-1999 war and removed from Kosovo in an apparent cover-up attempt by former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. The remains are missing persons from towns such as Suva Reka, Meja, Djakovica and Kosovo Polje, said Valerie Brasey, an official from the U.N.-run office for missing persons and forensics. The bodies will be handed over to the U.N. authorities in the border area of Merdare, 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of the provincial capital, Pristina. Out of some 836 bodies of Kosovo Albanians found in mass graves in Serbia, more than 630 have been returned to Kosovo so far. Families of the missing have repeatedly demanded that all the war dead exhumed be returned immediately. The fate of the missing remains one of the most sensitive and emotionally charged issues between the two former foes. There are some 2,557 people still unaccounted for from the Kosovo conflict. The two sides have met several attempting to establish the whereabouts of ethnic Albanians, Serbs and others who vanished during the war. The Bosnia-based international agency dealing with identification of missing persons through DNA matching said Friday it was launching a campaign across Kosovo and in Serbia-Montenegro, to encourage family members of the missing to donate blood samples for DNA matching. The International Commission on Missing Persons said the television, radio and newspaper campaign in both Albanian and Serbian language media will encourage relatives to give just four small drops of blood to help the identification process. Once the bodies are in Kosovo, authorities will conduct an additional forensic examination before the bodies are given to the families for burial. The remains recovered from these mass graves are identified by matching DNA from bone samples with records, reports the AP. I.L.

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