4 Arrested in 71 Migrant Deaths in Austria

Henry Chu, Los Angeles Times, August 28, 2015

A truck found abandoned on an Austrian highway contained the bodies of 71 migrants, including four children, and four suspects in the case have been arrested in Hungary, Austrian and Hungarian authorities said Friday.

The dead appear likely at this point to have been Syrian refugees and to have died from suffocation, but forensic investigators are still working on establishing identities and confirming the cause of death, said Hans Peter Doskozil, chief of police in the eastern Austrian state of Burgenland. The bodies–belonging to 59 men, eight women and four children, including a 1-or 2-year-old girl and an 8-or 9-year-old boy–are partially decomposed.

Hungarian police said in a statement that they had arrested three Bulgarian nationals and one Afghan in connection with the case. Detectives have searched a number of homes and questioned about 20 witnesses.

Doskozil said one of the three Bulgarians arrested is apparently of Lebanese descent and was the owner of the refrigerated truck, which formerly belonged to a Slovakia-based meat-transporting firm.

The vehicle and its gruesome contents were discovered Thursday on the side of a highway connecting Austria and Hungary. {snip}

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The gruesome discovery, near the eastern Austrian town of Parndorf, was made Thursday morning just as the leaders of Germany and several Balkan nations were meeting less than 30 miles away in Vienna to discuss the crisis.

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, whose country is expecting a staggering 800,000 applications for asylum this year, said she was “shaken” by the news and pledged to help the poorer Southern European nations where migrants are first landing on the continent.

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