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Guatemalans bury victims of 1982 civil war massacre

NEBAJ, Guatemala--Weeping and singing Christian hymns, Guatemala's indigenous Ixil Mayans buried Wednesday the remains of 31 civilians killed by the army during the country's bloody civil war three decades ago.

Relatives of the victims carried wooden coffins through the streets of Nebaj, a small town in the north, toward the local cemetery as a voice announced through a loudspeaker that they were “those that the army massacred in 1982.”

Before a Catholic mass and burial, families held a Mayan ceremony, burning colorful candles and tree resin in the town located in Quiche province.

Only eight of the 31 remains were identified after years of work by forensic specialists because the bodies were burned and many turned to ashes, said Diego Rivera, president of the North Quiche Victims Association.

Nebaj, along with Chajul and Cotzal, is part of the Ixil Mayan region decimated during the conflict and trying to put former dictator Efrain Rios Montt behind bars over the killings.

Rios Montt, who ruled with an iron fist from March 1982 to August 1983, was sentenced last year to 80 years in prison for genocide in the case involving the massacre of more than 1,000 Ixil Mayans.

The regime accused Ixil Mayans of supporting leftist guerrillas during the 36-year civil war that ended in 1996.

But the former general's conviction was struck down by the Constitutional Court on the grounds that he was denied due process. A new trial is due to begin in January.

A Place to Leave Flowers

The massacre was committed in the village of Xecax on February 4, 1982, after unidentified individuals threw an explosive device on the road leading to Nebaj.

“After a bomb exploded, the army arrived to destroy the community,” Rivera said. “The population paid for it, but nobody knows who threw the bomb.”

The army “burned homes and people, they massacred men, women and children,” he said.

DNA tests will be conducted to identify the 23 victims whose remains were unrecognizable.

Margarita Hermoso Perez, 69, lost three sons and a daughter, as well as her two parents in law in the massacre.

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Relatives sit next to the coffin of Miguel Brito, one of 31 villagers massacred in 1982, during the burial in Santa Maria Nebaj, Guatemala, Wednesday, July 30.

(AP)

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