Argentine experts to help identify Vietnamese martyrs' remains

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Analia Gonzalez, an Argentine expert, measures and marks a martyr's corpse in Ho Chi Minh City before taking samples for DNA tests.

Two Argentine forensic anthropologists have taken the remains of 11 martyrs from Ho Chi Minh City, hoping to identify them and ending disputes over their identities between families.

The 11 remains were among 15 found by scrap-metal collectors looking for weapons in the southern province of Binh Phuoc at a site of a battle that occurred between November 21 and 29, 1968.

Nearly 100 Vietnamese soldiers were killed as the US sent tanks to level the area, a son of one of the four martyrs who had been identified following DNA tests said.

Analia Gonzalez and Mercedes Salado Puerto, the two Argentines, went to the Ho Chi Minh City Martyrs' Cemetery where the 15 remains are being kept, Tien Phong newspaper said in a report.

They marked the tombs before local soldiers helped dig them up.

Gonzalez took photos of each coffin and notes so that she would not mistake one for another.

Then she washed each piece of bone from the corpses, carefully scanning the dirt with equipment so that she would not miss anything.

The teeth of the martyrs were intact but their skulls and bones had fallen apart.

Puerto cleaned each tooth with a toothbrush and put back them into the jaws.

There were signs of cuts on the teeth, and Puerto said previous excavations with large tools like hoes had caused that.

After being told by a Vietnamese in the team about local beliefs, she poured the water used to clean the bones back into the tombs.

Some of their colleagues from Hanoi said the two worked carefully like archeologists.

Puerto was first allowed only to take two teeth from each body to Argentina for gene tests, but she said they were not in good enough condition to guarantee results.

She finally got four as requested and a large bone from each body.

It took three days to take samples from all 11 martyrs, and more time to take samples from possible family members, meaning nearly 90 families.

She promised to return everything together with the DNA test results.

Their visit was arranged by Alberto J. Kaminker, Argentina's ambassador to Vietnam.

The ambassador said his country sympathized with Vietnam's losses during the wars, and as ambassador he was trying to help.

Hundreds of thousands of martyrs' remains are unidentified in Vietnam.

He said Argentine experts have accomplished the task in 30 countries around the world.

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