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Friday, December 30, 2005

Bosnia lab to test Katrina bodies

A Bosnian laboratory which pioneered new techniques to identify victims of the Balkan wars is to help identify the unknown dead of Hurricane Katrina.
The Sarajevo-based International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) will seek to extract DNA profiles from 350 samples provided by US authorities.

Katrina killed more than 1,200 people when it hit in August, and four months on, many bodies remain unidentified.

The southern state of Louisiana, which requested the help, was hardest hit.

Asian tsunami

The ICMP was set up by the international community in 1996, in the aftermath of the Bosnian conflict, to identify about 30,000 people missing from the wars in the former Yugoslavia.

Hurricane Katrina put the lives of many people in extreme danger

It developed specialist large-scale DNA extraction techniques and has helped name 6,000 of the 12,500 Bosnian war dead who have been identified.

It has also worked with the Thai authorities to help identify people killed in the Asian tsunami, as well as those investigating the attacks on the World Trade Center and people missing in Iraq.

ICMP chair, James Kimsey, said the organisation was hopeful of a high success rate in naming unidentified Hurricane Katrina victims.

"Hurricane Katrina is a relatively recent disaster and in this case the quantity of DNA is much higher than in older bones," he said.

Many of the bodies retrieved from the aftermath of Katrina were so decomposed that standard identification was impossible.

Dental records, often used in such cases, had been washed away in the storm, making DNA analysis the only viable option.

After a DNA profile is extracted from the bone samples provided, the ICMP will return the information to the US where it will be matched with the DNA profiles of family members.

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