Bogota (AFP) - Colombian authorities will this month begin the grisly task of carrying out what could be the largest exhumation of unmarked graves in the conflict-torn country's history, local media reported Sunday.
Caterina Heyck, who is overseeing the operation for national prosecutors, told El Tiempo newspaper that the exhumation would begin July 27 in the Commune 13 neighborhood of Medellin.
Investigators believe this area in Colombia's second city has a large number of corpses of people killed in the country's decades-long conflict.
Heyck said the process would be "complex" because investigators would need to match any eventual DNA samples to those given by relatives of missing people.
The South American nation is still in the grips of a half-century civil war that has drawn in left-wing guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries and drug gangs at various times, killing more than 220,000 people and uprooting as many as six million.
There is no official number of missing people, though estimates put the figure at between 15,000 and 20,000.
According to Heyck, Colombia has previously exhumed 5,958 bodies throughout the country, of which 3,224 have been returned to families.
The government opened peace talks in November 2012 with the largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
It has also started talks with another leftist guerrilla group, The National Liberation Army (ELN).