Shelling victims buried in secret

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The Independent Online
Tuzla (Reuter) - Weeping relatives yesterday buried 48 people slaughtered by a Bosnian Serb artillery shell in this northern Bosnian city on Thursday.

At a dawn funeral held in secret for fear of further attacks, more than 500 grieving friends, family and officials gathered at graves to pay their respects.

United Nations officials said earlier that 71 people had died in Bosnia's worst attack on civilians since the three-year war began, but hospital officials lowered the toll. A mortar attack on the main marketplace in Serb-besieged Sarajevo in February 1994 killed an identical number of people.

Local authorities buried the 48, mostly young people, in a ceremony organised secretly to avoid providing the Bosnian Serbs a new target for shelling. Under cover of darkness, soldiers and civil defence workers levelled trees with bulldozers in an old Yugoslav partisan graveyard to create space for new tombs in the yellow earth.

By 4 am everything was prepared. Coffins draped with sheets of varying colours - green for males and white for females - were transferred along a chain of hands leading up a steep hill to the fresh burial site. The dawn light revealed hundreds of men and women - young and old, Muslims, Croats and moderate Serbs alike - crouching around open graves, trying one last time to reach out to their departed through contemplation and prayer.

Islamic and Roman Catholic clergymen conveyed a message of goodwill despite the loss.