A mystery that has engaged the people of Cyprus for 35 years has been solved after the identification of the remains of five Greek Cypriot soldiers. The soldiers are among hundreds of others who have been missing since the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974.
In what became an iconic picture, five Greek Cypriot soldiers were photographed surrendering to invading Turkish troops in 1974. They were never seen again.
The grainy black and white photograph became a symbol of the long fight by Greek and Turkish Cypriots to discover the fate of loved ones who went missing during the conflict.
Officials said Monday the remains of the five soldiers have been identified and their families have been notified. Their remains and those of 14 other people were exhumed from an abandoned well in late 2006 in the Turkish-Cypriot north.
The United Nations-led Committee on Missing Persons is charged with discovering the fate of those missing after the 1974 Turkish invasion of northern Cyprus, which followed a military coup backed by the Greek government. Missing Persons Committee assistant Xenophon Kallis said this case had proved to be very emotional for the families.
"It is very emotional because if you have a photograph and they were seen alive, and unarmed, so they had some hopes, if you know what I mean," said Kallis.
About 1,500 Greek Cypriots and 500 Turkish Cypriots vanished during the invasion and ensuing violence in the early 1960s.
Since starting exhumations in 2006, the U.N.-backed program has discovered 537 sets of remains from 269 burial sites across this island. The committee has identified 162 individuals, 119 Greek Cypriots and 44 Turkish Cypriots, and returned their remains to their families.
Kallis says his team still has much work to do.
"It is a full time operation, it comprises of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, but we still have a long way to go, unfortunately," said Kallis.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded the northern part of the island.
South Cyprus joined the European Union in 2004 and the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is only recognized by Turkey.