Investigators have started work at a mass grave believed to contain more than 250 bodies of Kosovo Albanians killed by Serb troops during the 1998-99 war there, an official said Thursday.
Serbia's deputy war crimes prosecutor Bruno Vekaric said an investigative judge, experts and officials from a European Union mission in Kosovo are analyzing the ground at the site in southern Serbia, near the border with Kosovo, where the victims are believed to have been secretly buried in May or June 1999.
Vekaric said the investigation started Thursday. He explained experts will analyze the composition of the ground and check whether it had been moved in order to confirm that the bodies are there as witnesses reported.
Vekaric could not say how long the initial analysis might take. He said exhumations will follow.
Serbia's prosecutors believe the bodies of slain Kosovo Albanians were buried under a building and parking lot in the southern Serbian village of Rudnica. They say that the bodies initially had been buried in another mass grave inside Kosovo but were unearthed and brought to Serbia to hide atrocities committed during the war.
Serbia was ruled at the time by nationalist leader Slobodan Milosevic, whose brutal crackdown against the separatists in Kosovo prompted NATO to bomb Serbia for 78 days in 1999 to force it to relinquish control over the region.
Investigation in Serbia of war crimes committed by Milosevic's troops became possible after he was ousted from power in 2000 by a pro-Western coalition. Milosevic died in 2006 while being tried for genocide at a U.N. tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, for atrocities in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008.