, SREBRENICA, July 11- Several thousand people gathered Friday in Srebrenica for the 19th anniversary of the massacre of some 8,000 Muslim males by ethnic Serbs forces, Europe’s worst atrocity since World War II.
A total of 175 newly identified massacre victims will be laid to rest after a commemoration ceremony held in Potocari, just outside the ill fated Bosnian town.
The coffins filled with the victims remains and draped in green cloth were placed on a lawn in a dozen rows waiting to be put in freshly dug graves at a memorial cemetery later on Friday.
Some relatives were squatting next to the coffins, while others were caressing them with a trembling hand.
One mourner, Mustafa Delic, removed rainwater from graves which had fallen overnight.
The water filled three graves where Delic was to bury his three brothers, the youngest aged 21 when he was killed.
“Waiting was painful, but the moment has come to end this. One has to turn the page since life continues whether you want it or not,” the 50 year old Srebrenica survivor told AFP.
“We did not have time to say goodbye, we were five brothers, three did not have luck,” the grey haired man added.
“Here it is the end,” whispers Ramiza Hasanovic, a woman in her 60s, standing near the freshly dug grave in which the recently found remains of her husband will be buried.
Two other graves were dug just next to it, one for her brother and another for her nephew.
Two years ago in the same cemetery, Hasanovic buried her two teenage sons, Nihad and Mumin, aged 16 and 18 who were also killed during the massacre.
– ‘My pilgrimage site’ –
“Here is my house, in the middle of those graves. This is my pilgrimage site, this is all I have. I come here when I can, I talk to them, I pray for them,” whispered the woman with dark hair covered with a violet scarf.
The youngest victim to be laid to rest during Friday’s service was 14 years old when he was killed. Among the others to be buried are thirteen teenaged boys, aged between 15 and 17.
No close family relatives of brothers Amir and Asim Mujic, aged 20 and 24 when they were killed, survived the massacre to bury them, as demanded by Muslim tradition.
Their distant cousin Ismet Memic came to bid them the final farewell.
“All 37 men from their hamlet were killed. Their father and their third brother also, while their mother died of sadness,” explained the 78 year old.
“But from now on the father and his three sons will be together again,” he said pointing to four graves.
The eastern Bosnian town was a UN protected Muslim enclave until July 11, 1995, when it was overrun by Bosnian Serb forces.
Around 8,000 men and boys died in the massacre which followed the town’s seizure. It was labelled a genocide by two international courts.
So far, the remains of 6,066 people were exhumed from mass graves in the Srebrenica region for reburial in the Potocari cemetery.
The massacre took place just a few months before the end of Bosnia’s 1992-1995 war, which claimed some 100,000 lives in total.
The atrocity still divides Bosnia’s Muslims and Serbs.
Many Serbs refuse to recognise the genocide and turn a blind eye to commemorative services in Srebrenica.
Bosnian Serb wartime political leader Radovan Karadzic and his army chief Ratko Mladic, considered the massacre masterminds, are now being tried by a UN court for war crimes and genocide.