In a 'Chaotic' Grave, Remains of 232

Bones possibly linked to Sri Lanka's civil war to be tested in Florida
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 22, 2018 9:30 AM CST
In Sri Lankan Grave, Remains of 232 People
Sri Lankan army soldiers march in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Feb. 1, 2018.   (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

Forensic experts in Sri Lanka have been handed the awful task of tracing more than 230 bodies in the country's largest known mass grave. Uncovered in Mannar in March by workers digging a foundation for a building, the grave had produced 90 skeletons by August, though that number has since grown to 232, per ColomboPage. To be sent to Florida to undergo radiocarbon dating and other tests, the remains found at "a former co-operative depot near the main bus terminus" are believed to belong to victims of a 26-year civil war during which at least 100,000 people were killed, reports the BBC. Showcasing photos of several missing people, the Guardian reports another 65,000 disappeared between 1983 and 2009, when fighting ended between Sri Lankan security forces and separatist Tamil Tiger rebels.

Locals say hundreds of people disappeared from Mannar specifically. The town dominated by ethnic minority Tamils was under government control for most of the war, with rebels occupying its surrounding areas, per the BBC, which adds that the remains of nearly 100 people were found in another mass grave in Mannar in 2014. It's still unclear who was placed there and by whom; the army denies solders were involved. With partial funding from the Office on Missing Persons, an independent body set up by the government this year, forensic experts now hope to unravel a second mystery hidden within the latest "chaotic" grave. It's "very difficult to trace the stature of the bodies" as bones are scattered or missing, lead archaeologist Raj Somadeva tells the BBC, noting porcelain, ceramic, metal objects, and jewelry were also found. (Thousands of bodies have been found in Iraq.)

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