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Tuesday, October 12, 1999 Published at 20:55 GMT 21:55 UK

World: Europe

Kosovo mass grave uncovered

The latest mass grave is one of more than 150 in Kosovo

German forensic experts have been investigating a mass grave in the south-western Kosovan town of Orahovac.

By Tuesday they had exhumed 15 sets of human remains out of an estimated total of up to 90. The site was discovered on Friday.

Peter Koehler, the head of the German forensic team, indicated that the grave could date from July 1998, the height of the crackdown on ethnic Albanian rebels by Yugoslav government forces.

[ image: Investigators continue their work in Orahovac]
Investigators continue their work in Orahovac
This would make it one of the earliest mass graves in Kosovo.

The UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague said five Serbs had been arrested near Orahovac at the end of September on suspicion of murder.

"It's not easy to find out the cause of death because what we find is mostly bones," Mr Koehler said.

The team plans to exhibit clothing, earrings and other items found in the grave in the hope that some of the victims will be identified.

Investigations incomplete

Local residents directed members of the team to the site, which is near the town cemetery.

Forensic scientists working for the war crimes tribunal have investigated more than 150 mass grave sites in Kosovo since June, when Nato troops moved into the province on the heels of retreating Serb forces.

They have recovered thousands of bodies, but there are hundreds more possible sites to examine.

On Monday, the tribunal reported that scientists had found "absolutely nothing" at one site under investigation - the Trebca lead and zinc mine near the northern city of Mitrovica.

Recovered bodies are identified whenever possible, and reburied in proper plots.

On Saturday, 34 dead were reburied in ceremonies at Plocica, 60km (35 miles) south-west of Pristina, and Gornja Brnjica, 7km (four miles) south of Pristina.

Kosovo leader accused

In a separate development on Tuesday, the former chief of staff of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), Agim Ceku, denied reports that he had committed war-crimes against ethnic Serbs while serving in the Croatian army in the mid-1990s.

Mr Ceku, who now heads the KLA's successor organisation, the Kosovo Protection Corps, told a Croatian newspaper that the accusations against him were groundless.

The British Sunday Times newspaper reported at the weekend that Mr Ceku, 38, was under investigation by the Hague tribunal in connection with events in Croatia between 1993 and 1995.

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