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Tracking A Trail Of Blood

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CBS
In a small clinic in Bosnia a lonely woman recently gave blood not to help the living but to find the dead, part of a program using DNA from survivors to identify those killed in this country's brutal civil war.

The woman, Noura Mustafic, believes her husband, three sons and a brother may be among more than 4,000 bodies stacked in a special warehouse here.

They are the still unidentified victims of one of the bloodiest massacres in the 1992-1995 war.

As many as 10,000 men and boys disappeared after Bosnian Serb forces overran the Muslim enclave of Srebrenica in 1995 and were never seen alive again, reports CBS News Correspondent Allen Pizzey.


Click here for more on the bloody breakup of Yugoslavia.

The bodies were found in mass graves, often having been reburied to hide evidence, and until the DNA project began with U.S. and Dutch government funding, it was almost impossible to identify them.

"Srebrenica, this building and the 4,000 bodies bags is a special case, and the most difficult identification problem that we face in Bosnia," said Dr. Brenda Kennedy, International Commission on Missing Persons, or ICMP.

But Srebrenica's corpses aren't the only ones without names. Elsewhere, the entrance to an ancient salt mine holds more than 300 bodies from another massacre in anonymous cold storage. Only 232 are marked "identified."

Solving the puzzle requires building a computerized database that will eventually hold DNA information from 75,000 blood and 20,000 bone samples.

"DNA is not magic science," said Adnan Rizvic of the Missing Persons Institute. "You have to have bone, exhumed from the body and you have to have blood related with that bone."

Blood isn't the only clue. Personal effects from exhumed bodies are washed, then photographed in hopes relatives can identify them.

Serbs Protest War Crimes Arrest
About 1,000 Bosnian Serbs protested on Monday against the arrest of an army commander accused of involvement in the massacre of thousands of Muslim men in the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

Dragan Obrenovic, who was wartime commander of an army brigade, was arrested on Sunday by NATO-led SFOR troops in Kozluk, not far from Zvornik on Bosnia's border with Yugoslavia, where the protes was held.

"More than 2,000 people have looked at the book," said Kennedy. "We now have 23 presumptive identifications based on showing of this book. Those presumptive IDs will be followed up with DNA to confirm the ID."

Yet so deep are the wounds of war, ethnic hatred and suspicion here that bar codes must be used to ensure complete secrecy for the samples. The ICMP must also clear land mines from some of the burial sites.

The Bosnian war broke out in 1991, after Bosnia followed the lead of other republics like Croatia, Macedonia and Slovenia and declared independence from Yugoslavia.

The province's Serb enclaves took up arms, as did separate Muslim and Croatian forces. The Muslim and Croatian sides became allies in 1994, and the war ended with the Dayton accords of 1995, which divided the country between a Serb Republic and a Muslim-Croat federation.

Yet Bosnia still holds war secrets — there are other mass graves where bodies are yet to be found.

Experts say it will be at least another seven years before they have done all they can do, and even then the whole truth won't be known. And the job won't stop there, either.

The ICMP, launched by President Clinton in 1996, is helping Croatia and Yugoslavia to set up identification databases. It also plans to begin work in Kosovo.

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