Italy's president recalls 'horror' of the Foibe

Italy commemorates victims of the Foibe with national day of remembrance.

Italy's president Sergio Mattarella has recalled the "horror" of the Foibe during a ceremony today to remember the victims of the mass killings in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Istria and Dalmatia by Tito's partisans, both during and after world war two.

The massacres were committed mainly against the local ethnic Italian population by Yugoslav communists who occupied the Istrian peninsula during the last two years of the war.

"The suffering, deaths, uprooting, and exodus forced on tens of thousands of families in the areas of the eastern border, of Istria, of Fiume, of the Dalmatian coasts, are inscribed with an indelible mark," said Mattarella.

"The crimes against humanity unleashed in that conflict did not exhaust themselves with the liberation from Nazi-Fascism, but continued in their persecution and violence, perpetrated by another authoritarian regime, the communist one," said the president.

The exact number of victims is unknown but there may have been up to 15,000 killed, with many of them tortured, shot or pushed to their deaths into the deep, narrow carsic sinkholes or chasms known as foibe.

The killings occurred in 1943 and again in the weeks before and after the end of the war in 1945.

The Giorno del ricordo, marked annually on 10 February, commemorates the victims of the ethnic cleansing as well as the exodus of Italians who left their homes in Dalmatia and Istria in the years after 1943.

Known in English as the 'National Memorial Day of the Exiles and Foibe,' the annual remembrance day was declared in 2004 by then Italian president Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.

In 2007 Ciampi's successor, President Giorgio Napolitano, referred to the Foibe as "one of the barbarities of the past century."

Last summer President Mattarella joined Slovenian president Borut Pahor in laying a wreath at a Foibe memorial in Basovizza near the northern Italian city of Trieste.