All Georgian victims of Babushera tragedy return home

Babushera Airport, located in the capital city of breakaway Abkhazia, has been closed to regular flights since 1993., 23 May 2014 - 19:23, Tbilisi,Georgia

The bodies of 31 Georgians who died in a plane crash in Abkhazia have returned home, 21 years on from the tragedy.

Eighteen bodies found in mass grave in Abkhazia at Sokhumi’s Babushera Airport were transferred from the Abkhazian capital to Tbilisi today while the bodies of 13 other victims were brought home earlier this month.

A plane carrying more than 120 people from Tbilisi was shot down while landing at Babushera Airport in Sokhumi on September 20, 1993, during the Abkhaz war. The event happened a few days before Tbilisi lost the battle for Sukhumi on September 27, 1993.

See the video of the Babushera Airport incident in Sokhumi in September 1993. Property of Georgia's Public Broadcaster. 

Authorities began to excavate the graves at the Babushera cemetery on May 8 following long-time Georgian-Abkhazian negotiations.

The officials are now tasked with identifying the bodies so they can be returned to their relatives.

The identifying process is believed to take about six months, said Georgia’s Minister of Internally Displaced Persons and Refugees David Darakhvelidze today.

He claimed on May 27, a mass grave in Tbilisi would also be opened and if examinations proved there were Abkhazians among the unidentified bodies, they would also be returned home to Sokhumi.

To date, 47 bodies have been transferred from the Abkhazian grave site to Tbilisi. The last transfer happened in 2001.

Four of the 47 bodies have been reburied by victims’ families. Forty-three lie in the Vashlijvari Cemetery in Tbilisi while 22 remain unidentified.

International experts are set to take part in the identification process of the unidentified remains. DNA samples would be taken from victims’ family members and matched with DNA taken from the deceased to help discover who they are.

"The history of the war in Abkhazia and this particular tragedy has been an unhealed pain for our society and this wound could be reopened today but it is important that families and future generations have their heroes' graves buried according to traditions and rules," Minister Darakhvelidze said.

Abkhazia, which lies on the eastern coast of the Black Sea, is one of the two breakaway regions of Georgia currently occupied by Russian forces.