Red Cross identifies remains of 88 Argentine soldiers in Falklands


Geneva (AFP)

The Red Cross said Friday its forensic team had identified the remains of 88 Argentine soldiers buried in the Falkland Islands after being killed fighting against Britain over the territory.

The International Committee of the Red Cross had gathered samples from 121 remains of unidentified soldiers buried in Darwin military cemetery on the remote South Atlantic islands, known in Spanish as Malvinas.

"We are pleased that we can now match names to many of the unidentified soldiers, providing answers to many of the families who have been waiting for news for over three decades," ICRC operations chief Dominik Stillhart said in a statement.

His comments came after the results were presented to delegations from Argentina and Britain at ICRC's headquarters in Geneva on Friday.

Last December, the British and Argentinian governments agreed to exhume and identify what they initially thought were the remains of 123 Argentine soldiers, with the number later cut to 121.

The soldiers died in the 1982 war between Britain and Argentina -- a conflict which killed 649 Argentine soldiers, 255 British troops and three islanders.

Families of Argentine troops killed in the conflict have long demanded that their loved ones be identified.

Stillhart attributed ICRC's ability to identify so many of the remains to "the thorough forensic identification process."

The organisation sent in a team of 14 specialists from Argentina, Australia, Chile, Mexico, Spain the Britain to work on the case between June 20 and August 7.

The specialists "exhumed, analysed, sampled and documented the remains of each of the unidentified soldiers buried in graves bearing the inscription 'Soldado argentino solo conocido por Dios' (Argentine soldier only known to God)," ICRC said.

"The dignity of the dead was ensured throughout," it said.

Genetic analysis of the samples and cross-referencing with samples taken from the families was conducted at a forensic laboratory in Cordoba, Argentina, with labs in Britain and Spain confirming the reliability of the results, ICRC said.

Argentine authorities will now inform the families of the identified soldiers "directly and confidentially," it said.

The war over the islands began after Argentine forces occupied them.

Argentina argues it inherited the windswept islands from Spain when it gained independence in the 19th century.

But Britain says it has historically ruled them and that the 3,000 islanders have the right to self-determination.

In a 2013 referendum, residents voted overwhelmingly to remain part of Britain.