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June 27, 2017

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Bosnia buries 284 war victims two decades on

KOZARAC, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- Thousands gathered on Sunday for a final farewell to 284 people killed in Bosnia's 1992-1995 war, after their remains were exhumed from one of the largest mass graves found in the country.

"I hope it will be easier now," said 48-year-old Suad Tatarevic, who came to bury some 40 family members lost to the mass killing, including his father and six brothers.

"At least I know where their graves are and can come to pray for them," he said as he knelt before the coffins of his loved ones, lined up with hundreds of others on a local playing field.

Tatarevic managed to flee when his father and brothers were killed on July 22, 1992, in their village of Zecovi.

His family were executed by Bosnian Serb forces as part of a campaign of ethnic cleansing at the beginning of the war.

Their bodies were among hundreds dumped in a huge mass grave found last year in a disused mine in the northwestern village of Tomasica.

Most of those killed were men, but they also included three women and a dozen teenagers aged 13 to 17 at the time.

All but one — a Croat — were Muslims from the nearby towns of Kozarac and Prijedor and surrounding villages.

The grand mufti of Bosnia, Husein Kavazovic, said a prayer for the dead before their coffins were transported towards cemeteries in their home villages across the region.

"In this valley of martyrs, the silence speaks more than words. A genocide was committed here. This evil has shocked us all," he told the crowd, some of whom responded by chanting "Allahu Akbar" (God is great).

'Emaciated prisoners'

Some 3,500 people were killed in the region at the beginning of the inter-ethnic war that claimed 100,000 lives throughout Bosnia. Some 700 locals remain unaccounted for.

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