Slovenia: Second World War mass grave found

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The bodies of up to 700 people killed at the end of the Second World War have been discovered in a mass grave in Slovenia, 65 years after they were herded into woods and killed by anti-fascists seeking revenge on Nazi collaborators.

Marko Strovs, who heads the government's commission for exhuming mass graves, said that researchers examined a pit in a forest near the town of Prevalje in the country's north-east region last week and found the remains.

"Based on what we've heard from local people and what we've seen so far, there could be up to 700 bodies buried inside," Mr Strovs said.

Thousands of Nazi collaborators were executed by Communist-backed anti-fascists after the war; in many cases, victims also included innocent civilians. Communist authorities in the former Yugoslavia, which included Slovenia until it dissolved in 1991, played down or denied post-war killings.

Mr Strovs said the pit contains the bodies of men and women. Initial findings suggest that their hands were tied behind their backs. Details of the 1945 deaths in the Prevalje forest have circulated in the area for years, after a boy reportedly witnessed the executions while hiding in a tree. He has since died, but recent floods caused a landslide that revealed some of the bones. Some of the victims were probably from neighbouring Austria, local residents said.