Peru extends digging at 80s mass grave

March 25, 2009 12:00 am

, LIMA, Mar 25 – The excavation of a mass grave believed to hold 50 victims of Peru’s "dirty war" on Maoist guerrillas in the 1980s has been extended by four days to March 27 in hopes of finding all the bodies, local authorities have said.

So far, 39 bodies have been recovered since digging began March 9 at the site in Huanta, a remote town 550 kilometers (342 miles) southeast of Lima. The excavations were originally scheduled to end on Monday.

The buried victims went missing in July and August 1984 in Ayacucho, Peru’s poorest province and the birthplace of an insurgency by the Shining Path, a Maoist group.

Lawyers for relatives of the victims said captives were taken to Huanta’s municipal stadium, where the Peruvian navy had established a base, and where they were tortured, executed and their bodies made to disappear.

The exhumation is the first of its kind this year by authorities investigating crimes committed during Peru’s 1980-2000 internal war.

Forensic experts will take DNA samples from the remains, and hope to identify them by the end of the year.

Peru’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission estimates that there are more than 4,000 secret graves holding victims from the conflict. Nearly 70,000 people were either killed or disappeared during the dirty war, according to government figures.

The commission concluded in a 2003 report that those buried in Huanta were victims of a massacre perpetrated by the Peruvian military.


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