To date 397 skeletal remains, 247 of which are complete bodies, have been uncovered from the Tomasica mass grave in northwestern Bosnia which dates to 1992.
It is believed that the Tomasica mass grave hides about 1,000 bodies of missing persons who were detained in the Keraterm and Omarska camps.
Tomasica is “surely the largest mass grave revealed in these areas,” Lejla Cengic, spokeswoman for the Institute for Missing Persons (IMP) of Bosnia and Herzegovina, confirmed in her statement to AA.
Tomasica is a half-hour drive through the forest from Prijedor town. Notorious Omarska, Trnopolje and Keraterm are camps in the Prijedor area where Bosnian Muslims and Croats were tortured and executed during the war.
“I must remind that one part of this mass grave was relocated to Jakarina Kosa, which is also in the Prijedor area. In 2001, 373 skeletal remains were found in Jakarina Kosa, but the bodies were not complete. It was a secondary grave. A number of victims from Tomasica were relocated to Jakarina Kosa with the aim of hiding the victims and crime permanently,” points out Cengic.
Tomasica was recently discovered and IMP is currently exhuming the bodies. An Anadolu Agency team arrived at the site where the strong smell of the corpses was felt as six more bodies were found. Anthropologists said that they uncover about 15 bodies each day.
Beside the victims, private items like watches, shoes, clothes, specs boxes, cigarette lighters were also found, alongside personal documents of the victims, confirmed Cengic.
“So that we can conclude that inhabitants of Prijedor and surrounding villages, where most people were killed, in places like Rizvanovici, Carakovo, Sredice, Biscani, center of the town and Keraterm and Omarska camps,” she explained.
The truth about Tomasica remained unknown, despite the discovery at the site of 26 bodies years ago and 10 in 2006, until a former member of the army of Republika Srpska gave information about it.
She reminded that families from Prijedor are still searching for about 1,000 to 2,000 missing persons.
“Till today we have exhumed and identified 2008 victims. Bodies were handed over to their families so that they can bury them decently,” she said, adding that all found skeletal remains and complete bodies are identified through DNA testing, regardless of whether their personal documents were also found.
Exhumation is conducted under the auspices of the country’s Prosecutor’s Office. A team of six anthropologists from the International Institute for Missing Persons (ICMP), Crime Police from Prijedor and investigators from IMP and a forensic pathologist operate at the site.
The space of the exhumation continues to expand beyond 3,000 square meters.
“We expect to find hundreds of victims, Bosniaks and Croats who were killed at the doorsteps of their houses or in the camps,” Cengic added, expressing that the process will take long.
The Hague Tribunal sentenced 16 Bosnian Serbs to a total of 230 years of life in prison for the crimes committed at the Prijedor site.
Before Tomasica, the biggest mass grave discovered in Bosnia was Crni Vrh in eastern Bosnia, where 629 bodies were found.
Bosnian families are still searching for 8,000 persons missing since the Bosnian war.