11,000 bodies of missing in Bosnia still need to be found

Bosnia's Institute for Missing Persons still has to find the bodies of some 11,000 people who went missing during the Bosnian war and has located 25 sites throughout the country that are assumed to be mass graves, the head of the institute said Friday. "We estimate that about 11,000 still need to be found in mass graves and some in individual graves," said Marko Jurisic, the head of the institute, a state-level body that was formed last year out of the previous three missing persons commissions in the country one for Bosniak Muslim victims, one for Orthodox Serbs and the third for Catholic Croats.

"We have already begun excavations this spring but we are being slowed down a bit by the weather," he said. Some of the bodies of the more than 20,000 people who remained missing after the war will never be found, "but it's our job to try to make that number as low as possible," he said. The unstitute runs several morgues in Bosnia where between 6,000 and 7,000 bodies are stored that still need to be identified through DNA analysis.

"We have to bear in mind that each year we will have less to do since the exhumation process will be coming to an end," Jurisic said. "Now, we are approximately halfway through. All in all, we still have up to 17,000 cases to finish, be it to find them or to identify those found," he said. Once experts exhume bodies from mass graves, special teams sort out the bones, extract DNA and run it through a database containing tens of thousands of DNA profiles from blood given by family members of the missing.

When a match is found, the body is returned to the family. Mass DNA identification was used for the first time after the Bosnian war. The aim is, if possible, to find every missing body, identify it correctly and return it to the family. Officials believe this will prevent speculation and manipulation of the numbers of victims and contribute to reconciliation. Tens of thousands were killed or went missing during Bosnia 's 1992-95 war between the three ethnic groups living here. Most of the victims were Bosniak Muslims, reports the AP.