Human rights organisations have long estimated the true number of Panamanian victims could be higher than the official toll of 300, prompting the establishment of a commission to investigate the true number.

The exhumation of remains of victims of the 1989 US invasion at the Monte Esperanza cemetery, in Colon, Panama, October 14, 2021.
The exhumation of remains of victims of the 1989 US invasion at the Monte Esperanza cemetery, in Colon, Panama, October 14, 2021. (ERICK MARCISCANO / Reuters)

Several bags with human remains have been exhumed from a mass grave in Panama amid searches for the victims of the US invasion of Panama in 1989.

Attorney General Geomara Guerra said four bags of remains have been recovered so far on Thursday at the Monte Esperanza cemetery in the city of Colon.

"We plan to keep doing the work to dig in the earth and see how many more bags could be there," he told reporters.

The remains were discovered in the same bags that US soldiers distributed for burials, he added.

The military operation took the lives of some 300 civilians and marked the end of the dictatorship of General Manuel Noriega.

Search for victims' bodies

For years, families have called for a search for the remains of those who died, many of whom were buried in mass graves.

Officials last year began exhuming corpses at another cemetery, called Jardin de Paz and found the unidentified remains of about 30 people. They halted the effort due to coronavirus restrictions.

Human rights organisations have long estimated the true number of Panamanian victims could be higher than the official toll of 300, prompting former President Juan Carlos Varela to establish a commission to investigate the true number.

Only 23 American soldiers lost their lives in the assault.

The invasion is an open wound for many Panamanians who each year commemorate the event and have called for the anniversary, December 20, to be declared a day of national mourning.

Source: Reuters