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BREAKING NEWS

Mass World War Two graves found at Belarus building site

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Mass World War Two graves found at Belarus building site
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Sergei GAPON / AFP
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Building work at the site of a former Jewish ghetto in a Belarus has unearthed the remains of hundreds of people in mass graves from World War Two.

The remains of 790 bodies have been found so far according to an official overseeing the operation, Dmitry Kaminsky.

"The pit is big, I would even say there are two pits, twenty by four (metres) in size. In one pit one can clearly see a bullet hole in back of the head. We can say that they were clearly shot in the back of the head. In another pit, everything is piled, so it is not possible to tell as the skulls are split, broken, and bullet holes are not visible. So we really can't tell."

The discovery in the southern city of Brest has prompted many local people to oppose the construction of a residential building at on the site.

"We want to make sure there are no more graves on this territory, that people are recovered to the last piece of remains and buried at a cemetery," explained Alla Kondak of Brest city's culture department. "We want to be sure we paid the tribute to Brest citizens by burying them in Northern cemetery near the monument with honour in a solemn ceremony. We really want (to do) that."

Alla Kondak said victims from the 1941 shootings had been found in several areas of the town before this discovery.

After war broke out between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, Germany took over Brest in June 1941, and shot thousands of Jews in the city days later.

The ghetto was created in December 1941. The area had a population of at least 18,000 people.

"We are transferring the remains that are dug up to local authorities for reburial," Dmitry Kaminsky said, adding that working with the bodies of Jewish victims was taking an emotional toll.

"When we find the skeleton of a child and the skeleton of a mother protecting it, I understand what these people felt. These are not pleasant feelings."

Almost all of Brest's surviving Jews were shot in October 1942 in Bronnaya Gora, a mass killing site for Jews from Belarus and Poland.

Irina Lavrovskaya, an architect and Brest historian, said she had launched a petition aimed at stopping the construction of a residential building on the site of the new discovery.