Soldiers board a helicopter in Guerima, in the eastern province of Vichada, Colombia, Wednesday March 9, 2011. Suspected leftist rebels released early Tuesday, 22 of 23 Colombian contractors abducted while doing exploratory work in the remote jungle region for the Canadian oil company Talisman. (AP Photo/William Fernando Martinez)
Digging up 10,000 bodies from unmarked graves is hard enough, but having to identify every last individual seems almost impossible.
But that's exactly what Colombia's government has done.
After finding the 10,000 people buried across the country, an official said Thursday at least that many more bodies are still to be identified.
Interior Minister German Vargas said it is "fundamental for advancing legal human rights proceedings" to identify the remains. Many of the bodies are suspected of being victims from Colombia's decades-long internal conflict pitting leftist guerrillas, right-wing militias and government security forces.
The process of identifying remains found in clandestine graves across the country was carried out over the past five months by comparing fingerprints taken from bodies at morgues with data from the National Registry, the agency that issues identity documents.
By cross-checking the two information bases authorities managed to identify 9,969 people: 8,810 men and 1,159 women.
Legislator Ivan Cepeda said bodies in at least 10,000 more graves could not be identified because they were minors, lacked identity documents or their fingerprints were not properly taken.
Identified bodies will be exhumed from the graves and returned to their families, if they are claimed.
Each morgue in Colombia will have an attention center and information will also be posted on the website of the Legal Medicine Institute to help families recover the bodies of loved ones, Cepeda said.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.