The remains of five Greek Cypriot soldiers who appear in an iconic 1974 photo surrendering to invading Turkish troops were found in an abandoned well in the Turkish Cypriot north, officials said Monday.
The remains of the soldiers and 14 other people were exhumed from an abandoned well in late 2006 near the northern village of Tziaos, Elias Georgiades, an official with the United Nations-led Committee on Missing Persons, said.
He said the soldiers’ families were informed Friday that the remains had been identified.
The five soldiers whose corpses were found in the well were Antonakis Korelli, Panayiotis Nikolaou, Yiannis Papayianni, Christoforos Skordi and Filippos Chatzikiriakou.
The soldiers’ families and Greek Cypriot officials called the photographs proof that they were murdered in the custody of Turkish troops.
“It’s a cold-blooded execution,” Andreas Hadjikyriakos, a brother of one of the soldiers told Cypriot television. “I can never accept this.”
“For the soldiers to be discovered the way they were, in a well, proves they were murdered,” said Cypriot government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou, who urged Turkey to investigate what happened.
“The discoveries confirm the crimes and flagrant breach of international law and human rights during the Turkish invasion of Cyprus,” said Greek Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Grigoris Delavekouras.
Turkey invaded 35 years ago and split Cyprus into an internationally recognised Greek south and a breakaway Turkish north in response to a coup by Athens-backed supporters of union with Greece.
Around 1,500 Greek Cypriots and 500 Turkish Cypriots vanished during the invasion and in interethnic clashes in the early 1960s.
The photographs became a symbol of the decades-long bids by relatives of the missing to trace the fates of their loved ones.
Since starting exhumations three years ago, a UN-sponsored program has unearthed 537 sets of remains from 269 burial sites on both sides of the divide.
Some 162 identified missing individuals, 119 Greek Cypriots and 44 Turkish Cypriots, have so far been returned to their families.