Experts in the Cyprus exhumed human remains in the northwest of the island, some 55 years after Turkish planes bombed a Greek Cypriot stronghold in Pachyammos.
According to the Cyprus News Agency, the remains and personal items of possibly Greek Cypriot National Guard soldiers have been unearthed in the latest excavation project in Tylliria, where Turkish planes bombed a former makeshift hospital in 1964.
The dig began on October 9 through a special program established by Cyprus in a partnership between the state and the Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics (CING). Combat engineers from the National Guard are also taking part as ammunition was known to have been hidden and buried in the area.
Presidential commissioner Photis Photiou said bones belonging to a number of individuals have been found at the site. DNA test results were said to be expected by the CING this week while the excavation project was still incomplete.
“We are taking all precautionary measures that are necessary so that we can assure the safety of the specialists, the local residents, as well as the finds,” Photiou said.
A military conflict took place in August 1964 between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, with the government accusing Turkish Cypriots of gunrunning. A UN report later pointed to “some justification” over the suspicions of weapons smuggling from Turkey.
The National Guard had moved in troops and artillery pieces, surrounding Turkish Cypriots from land and sea as patrol boats also shelled Kokkina and Mansoura villages.
UN calls for a ceasefire were ineffective as Turkish planes flew over the area on August 7 and fired warning rounds out to sea. Fighting ensued and the planes returned and bombed government positions in a follow up mission the next day, according to records.
The excavation includes a total of three sites in the area, according to Photiou, who said the project was based on a cabinet decision that called for the exhumation of victims who died in August 1964.
Photiou said the makeshift hospital in Pachyammos was the first excavation site following research and planning and that there were two other sites at the Panagia Chrysopateritissa cemetery where the remains of nursing staff were possibly buried.
“We are doing everything possible under adverse circumstances to give them [relatives] answers they are entitled to concerning the fate of their loved ones, something which will also help close this painful chapter of having lost their own folks,” Photiou said.
The excavation program in Pachyammos was not part of the bicommunal Committee on Missing Persons, which has been operating on a bicommunal mandate since 1981 with consent from both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.
CMP is aimed at recovering and identifying the remains of missing persons without getting into politics.