The remains of six Argentine soldiers killed in the 1982 South Atlantic conflict with Britain and buried on the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands have been identified by forensic experts, the International Committee of the Red Cross said Tuesday.
The bodies were located at a mass grave known as C.1.10. at Darwin Cemetery, on Isla Soledad (East Falkland Island). DNA testing on the six sets of remains allowed four new individuals to be identified, while two others previously known to experts were also confirmed.
"We were able to identify six individuals and finally give answers to their families after all these years. Every family deserves to know what happened to their loved one, and it's a truly humbling experience to be part of that process and bring their uncertainty to an end," said Laurent Corbaz, head of the Second Humanitarian Project Plan (HPP 2) team that identified the remains.
"We would also like to thank everyone who made this project possible and who supported it along the way, both in the islands and elsewhere," he added.
According to local news reports, the six soldiers died in combat while travelling in a helicopter. It caught fire after being shot down over Mount Kent in 1982.
The Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF), which has helped identify the remains of victims of Human Rights abuses in places like Mexico and El Salvador, also participated in identifying the remains, the ICRC said.
"The mission was a success despite some very challenging weather conditions. Identification was possible through the application of international forensics standards and taking a multidisciplinary approach. This is what will hopefully enable families to finally have some closure," said EAAF President Luis Bernardo Fondebrider, who served as the head of the ICRC's forensic unit.
The remains, which were taken to the EAAF's facilities in Córdoba in August for identification, will now be handled according to the wishes of each family. Though some requested they be reburied in separate graves, it is believed all asked for them to be returned to their previous resting place. A brief ceremony took place on Wednesday morning at the Argentine Military Cemetery to mark their return.
The Red Cross also revealed in a statement that its investigators had probed an area called Teal Inlet/Caleta Trullo, searching for additional remains, but that none had been found.
Malvinas Secretary Daniel Filmus and President Alberto Fernández were among those to praise the "enormous work" of the Red Cross and the EAAF, with the former highlighting the extra challenge of undertaking the work during the coronavirus pandemic.
Buenos Aires and London have a long-held sovereignty dispute over the islands. Las Malvinas, known as the Falkland Islands in English, are a self-governing British overseas territory that have been under British control since 1833.
Argentina claims the South Atlantic archipelago as its own territory and wants the United Kingdom to abide by a 1965 resolution endorsing talks to resolve the sovereignty dispute.
Argentina's forces invaded the islands in 1982. Britain regained control after a 10-week war in which 649 Argentines, 255 British troops and three islanders were killed.
Following the war, 237 Argentine soldiers were buried in 230 graves at Darwin cemetery.
Four years ago, in the First Humanitarian Project Plan (HPP 1), the remains of 122 Argentine soldiers were exhumed from unmarked graves that bore the legend "Soldier known only to God." Experts managed to identify 115 by DNA testing.
The HPP 1 was the first such project with a specific joint mandate from two States, Argentina and the UK, that had been on opposite sides in an armed conflict.
An agreement to launch the HPP 2 mission was signed between the two governments and the ICRC in March 2021.