12 Aug 2009

Bodies of slain war prisoners identified on Cyprus

10:01 pm on 12 August 2009

The remains of five Greek Cypriot prisoners of war have been identified, 35 years after they were killed and thrown down a well.

The five national guardsmen were photographed surrendering to Turkish forces during the invasion of Cyprus in 1974.

Their remains were recovered in 2006 from a well in the Turkish north sector of the island, along with 14 other bodies.

After DNA testing on the remains, their identities have been made public by the UN-sponsored Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus.

The BBC reports the case is being seen as the committee's most significant piece of detective work.

The five prisoners of war were symbols for all families waiting for news of 1500 people who simply vanished during the invasion and Cyprus's inter-communal strife.

Photographs taken in 1974 show they had run out of ammunition and surrendered. They were on their knees, with their hands behind their heads,as Turkish troops advanced.

One guardsman was photographed accepting a cigarette from a Turkish soldier. His funeral will take place in Nicosia on Friday.

The brother of another dead prisoner of war told Cypriot television the photographs were proof the men had been murdered by the Turks. He described it as "a cold-blooded execution."

Since exhumations began three years ago, the remains of 163 people - 119 Greek Cypriots and 44 Turkish Cypriots - have been returned to their families.

The Greek and Cypriot governments have called on Turkey to open military archives to clear up all the cases of people who went missing during the invasion.