10 November 2006

UN hands over bodies of 29 Serbs killed in Kosovo war

Associated Press, Friday, October 13, 2006 1:08 PM

PRISTINA, Serbia-U.N. authorities in Kosovo on Friday handed over to families the bodies of 29 Serb civilians killed during the 1998-99 conflict in the volatile province.

Most of the victims are believed to have been from the western Kosovo towns of Orahovac and Opterusa, U.N. spokesman Neeraj Singh said. Previously, they all had been reported as missing.

Grieving family members and Serbia's officials received the bodies at Merdare boundary crossing, some 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Kosovo's capital, Pristina.

The bodies were transported north, to a cemetery near Belgrade, where a funeral was expected Saturday, following a wake in a chapel on the outskirts of the Serbian capital.

More than 2,000 people are still missing from the Kosovo conflict in what remains one of the most sensitive and emotionally charged issues between the two former foes.

Serbia's official in charge of the Commission for Missing Persons, Veljko Odalovic, said that 212 bodies of slain Serbs have been identified in Kosovo so far and handed over to their families, while the search continues for another 670 Serbs and non-Albanians still unaccounted for from the 1998-1999 war in Kosovo.

Kosovo, legally part of Serbia, has been under U.N. administration since mid-1999, when NATO's air war halted Serb forces' crackdown on independence-seeking ethnic Albanians.