2 more El Salvador ex-officers to face trial in '81 massacre

FILE - In this Oct. 23, 1992 file photo, forensic anthropologist Claudia Bernard, from Argentina, brushes dirt from human remains, in El Mozote, El Salvador. Two Salvadoran ex-military officers were notified on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019 that they will be prosecuted for their alleged participation in the El Mozote massacre, perpetrated by soldiers in 1981 and left an official record of 989 dead peasants over three days in December 1981. (AP Photo/Michael Stravato, File)

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) — Two ex-military officers were notified Thursday that they will join more than a dozen others in being prosecuted for the 1981 El Mozote massacre, a particularly infamous moment from El Salvador's nation's civil war.

A judge in San Francisco Gotera, about 100 miles (170 kilometers) east of the capital, summoned former Cols. Roberto Antonio Garay and José Antonio Rodríguez to inform them they will be tried on the charges of torture, forced disappearance and forced displacement.

Lawyers for the two could not immediately be located for comment.

Nearly 1,000 rural dwellers were slain by soldiers in the El Mozote massacre over three December days.

Soldiers trained by the U.S. in counterinsurgency tactics entered the area looking for guerrillas but killed civilians. Many of the bodies were put inside a church that was then burned. In one mass grave, the remains of 136 children were found with an average age of 6.

During Thursday's hearing, the judge said crimes against humanity were committed at El Mozote. The judge reopened the investigation after El Salvador's Supreme Court threw out a 1993 amnesty law that had shielded perpetrators of offenses during the civil war.

Others facing charges related to what was dubbed at the time "Operation Rescue" include high-ranking military leaders.

Some have said they did not participate in the operation and noted that many records from the war were lost or destroyed.