ANKARA, Turkey (AP) – Authorities have exhumed the bodies of three Kurds as part of their investigation into alleged extrajudicial killings by Turkish security forces in the 1990s.
The bodies were found Thursday in a village in southeast Turkey.
Earlier this month, authorities made two other grim discoveries in the region: at least 15 skulls in a suspected mass grave at a military unit and former prison, and bones that appear to be those of humans buried at an operating Turkish military outpost.
The nation’s government has vowed to shed light on the alleged extrajudicial killings that occurred at the height of clashes with autonomy-seeking Kurdish rebels, mostly in the southeast, in the 1990s.
Human right groups believe many of the hundreds of Kurds and leftists who disappeared in the 1990s were victims of summary executions by government forces, but there have been few prosecutions. Turkey has been excavating alleged mass graves for the past two years, though no bodies have been identified yet.
The fighting between the Kurdish rebels and the Turkish security forces has left tens of thousands of people dead since 1984.
“Extrajudicial killings, which are the shame of an era, are now being seriously investigated,” Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said Thursday. “Some crimes which could not be talked about in the past are now on the way to being solved.”
Turkey has conducted reforms as part of its European Union membership bid, clearing the way for families of the disappeared to pursue the cases.
Lawyer Ridvan Dalmis, who witnessed Thursday’s excavation of the three bodies near the village of Yagizoymak, said the remains allegedly are those of civilians who were killed by security forces in June 1993 and hastily buried by Kurdish villagers before they were forced to evacuate the area.
“They were buried with their clothes and there were clear signs of bullet holes on their bones,” Dalmis said in a telephone interview on Friday. “Their families identified them from their clothing, but still DNA tests will be conducted.”
Authorities, meanwhile, were preparing to expand an excavation in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir after unearthing at least 15 skulls and human bones over the past 10 days at the site of a former prison and military unit, said Emin Aktar, head of the Bar Association in Diyarbakir.
The bones were found by workers restoring the prison, said Aktar. The prison, notorious for alleged torture, was closed down in 2009.
“At least 27 families have petitioned authorities, saying they might be the remains of their missing loved ones,” Aktar said by telephone on Friday. “We don’t know yet whether they were buried in the 1990s or earlier.”
Earlier this week, authorities discovered some buried bones near a helicopter landing zone of a military outpost close to the village of Gorumlu near the Iraqi border, but it was not clear if they were human bones, said Nusirevan Elci, head of the Bar Association in the town of Sirnak.
“The excavation in Gorumlu was launched following confessions of a soldier who served there in 1993,” Elci said Friday. “The soldier said that he had a guilty conscience for 19 years.”
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