Croats bury victims of Vukovar massacre

NOT TOO far from the latest flashpoint of Kosovo, a trumpet sounded farewell to 56 victims unearthed from one of the largest mass graves in the former Yugoslav conflict.

The solemn send-off in the eastern Croatian town of Vukovar on Saturday was attended by senior government and church officials, and ended a nine- week ritual of exhumations and mass funerals in an overgrown field surrounded by woods.

Over the nine weeks, workers with shovels and picks turned up 938 bodies, almost half reportedly civilians.

Some of the victims were found with hands bound behind their backs by rope or wire. Others revealed bullet wounds to the rear of the skull - an indication of summary executions.

It was in Vukovar seven years ago that the gruesome Balkan scenes first surfaced. Tens of thousands of people were killed in the six-month Serb- Croat war that came after Croatia declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.

Three former Yugoslav army officers and a local Serb mayor have been indicted by the UN War Crimes Tribunal on charges of slaughtering 261 patients from a hospital. Those bodies were buried in a mass grave at Ovcara, a ravine on the outskirts of Vukovar.