BUENOS AIRES – The bodies of 121 unidentified Argentine soldiers were found in a cemetery in the Falkland Islands, an archipelago over which Argentina and Britain fought a war more than three decades ago, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Wednesday.
The bodies were found in individual tombs, said the leader of the project team, Laurent Corbaz.
The team had hoped to find 123 bodies in the cemetery, the ICRC said.
DNA samples have been obtained from half the bodies and the team hopes to complete the process by the end of this month, Corbaz said.
Researchers will compare the DNA samples with those provided by relatives of soldiers listed as missing in action in the Falklands, which Argentina calls the Malvinas, the ICRC official said.
The head of the ICRC mission in Buenos Aires, Diego Rojas Coronel, said about 100 families assisted in the project, while others have not decided whether to participate and some rejected taking part.
A final report will be prepared and provided to the British and Argentine governments, the ICRC said, adding that Argentine officials would be responsible for notifying the next of kin once a soldier was identified.
Some of the families want the remains repatriated to Argentina, but an agreement will have to be reached with the British government, Corbaz said.
After several months of negotiations, Buenos Aires and London agreed in late 2016 to authorize the identification project.
Argentina claims sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, which have been in British hands since the early 19th century.
London refuses to discuss the islands’ political status, contending that the South Atlantic archipelago’s residents are the only ones who can determine the territory’s future.
Falklands residents voted in 2013 to remain British in a referendum that has not been recognized by the international community.
On April 2, 1982, Argentine troops landed in the Falkland Islands.
Full-fledged fighting in the islands, which have been in British hands since 1833, officially began on May 1, 1982, with the arrival of a British task force and ended 45 days later with the surrender of Argentine forces.
The conflict, which was started by Argentina’s military regime, claimed nearly 1,000 lives – some 700 Argentines and 255 British soldiers and sailors.