Exhumation begins of grave thought to hold more than 1,000 bodies

VUKOVAR, Croatia (AP) — Forensic experts started digging Tuesday at a mass grave in the war-devastated eastern city of Vukovar — a site where they expect to find more than 1,000 bodies.
The victims are believed to be mostly Croat soldiers and civilians killed during the October 1991 siege of Vukovar, or rounded up and executed by the Yugoslav army and Serb paramilitary troops after the city’s fall three months later.
Some of the bloodiest fighting in the six-month Serb-Croat war took place in Vukovar. Thousands were killed in the Serb rebellion that came after Croatia declared independence from Serb-dominated Yugoslavia, and the once-picturesque Baroque town was reduced to little more than rubble.
Most of the bodies were packed in now-tattered black plastic bags, revealing skulls and other bone fragments.
About 40 more bodies were expected to be unearthed shortly. Twelve other trenches nearby should yield about 1,120 bodies, Grujic said.
The bodies were being carried individually to a tent for identification. The missing persons team expects to identify at least 940 missing people.
The exhumations were not performed earlier because the area only reverted to government control in January and mines had to be removed.
Three former Yugoslav army officers and a local Serb mayor have been indicted for war crimes by the U.N. tribunal over the alleged slaughter of 261 patients from a nearby hospital. The bodies were buried in a mass grave at Ovcara, on the outskirts of Vukovar.