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BosNet Digest V5 #27 / Jan. 18, 1996

From: Nermin Zukic <n6zukic@SMS.BUSINESS.UWO.CA>

Bosnia-Herzegovina News Directory

CONTENTS

  • [01] MASS-EXECUTION SITE REVEALED.

  • [02] `WE COULD HAVE STOPPED IT.'

  • [03] `WAR AGAINST MEMORY.'

  • [04] TROOP WITHDRAWALS BEGIN.

  • [05] OTHER PROGRESS DELAYED.

  • [06] CLINTON VISITS TUZLA.

  • [07] CROATS, BOSNIANS EXCHANGE ARTILLERY FIRE.

  • [08] CROATS BLAMED FOR CONTINUED MOSTAR DIVISION.

  • [09] PRISONER EXCHANGE FALLS THROUGH.

  • [10] SERB EXODUS FROM SARAJEVO POSTPONED.

  • [11] SOME CIVILIANS RELEASED.

  • [12] TROOPS INJURED BY MINE BLAST.

  • [13] WAR-DAMAGED ELEVATORS LATEST THREAT TO SARAJEVANS.

  • [14] RUSSIANS ARRIVE TO JOIN NATO FORCES IN BOSNIA.

  • [15] BOSNIAN MILITARY TRAINING TO BEGIN.

  • [16] A FEW MUSLIMS RE-CLAIM HOMES IN BANJA LUKA.

  • [17] UN POLICE COMMANDER NAMED.


  • [01] MASS-EXECUTION SITE REVEALED.

    Serb forces are destroying evidence of mass murder by bringing bodies from other mass-grave sites to an abandoned mine in Ljubija, northwest Bosnia, 12 miles south of Prijedor, several U.S. newspapers reported this week.

    "Everyone seems to be in a hurry to cover their killings," one British officer told the New York Times. "There are bodies all over this place. We go in to houses and find floorboards ripped up and holes in the basement. They are working very hard."

    Corpses "are often mangled in old mining equipment, doused with chemicals and reburied under tons of debris in the open pits," the Times reports. Some victims are believed to be Muslim men slaughtered in a wave of ethnic cleansing this fall, after a cease-fire was signed. Others were murdered earlier in the war.

    "There were certainly thousands killed at various camps around the Prijedor area" Graham Blewitt, a prosecutor with the UN war-crimes tribunal in the Hague, told the Times. Human-rights workers believe up to 8,000 bodies are buried at the site.

    The site is only a mile from a British military camp, but Serbs have been destroying evidence unimpeded. "Our job is to separate forces, not look for mass graves," Lt. Col. Benjamin Barry, commander of British forces, told the Times.

    "Investigating mass graves is not part of my job," NATO commander Admiral Leighton Smith told Reuters. "Establishing an environment in which others can do their job is part of my job."

    Blewitt hopes investigators can examine the mine in the spring.

    NATO spokesman Col. Mark Rayner says that IFOR would be willing to escort war-crimes investigators to such sites if formally asked, and "other operational commitments allow."

    [02] `WE COULD HAVE STOPPED IT.'

    That is the chilling conclusion of a five-part television documentary, "Death of a Nation," according to NY Times columnist Anthony Lewis.

    "It was not `ancient hatreds' that produced ethnic cleansing, rape and concentration camps. It was men: ambitious men who stirred up extreme nationalist emotions as a way to power. It was one man above all, Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia. `Death of a Nation' makes that unarguably clear," Lewis writes.

    "Milosevic sent a secret envoy to Moscow before attacking Croatia, and the Soviet military said its intelligence showed that the West would not respond," Lewis continues. "It was good intelligence. (Serb nationalist leader) Karadzic, speaking to an interviewer, confirms what critics of U.S. and European policy have maintained -- that we could have stopped it. `I knew,' he says, `that if the West put in 10,000 men to cut off our supply corridor, we Serbs would be finished....

    "For me, the most chilling is the voice of Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb general, telling his men on the hills overlooking Sarajevo: `...Target Muslim neighborhoods - not many Serbs live there. Shell them 'til they're on the edge of madness.'"

    [03] `WAR AGAINST MEMORY.'

    Bosnian Serbs, like Germans half a century ago, are trying to deny that they committed crimes against humanity, the New York Times reports. "The Bosnian Serbs have now embarked, (like the Croatians who deny the Ustashe crimes of 50 years ago), on a new war against memory.

    "Serbs eagerly hand out press packets with `evidence' that it was not the Serbs who slaughtered civilians in Sarajevo, but Bosnia's Muslim-led government in an effort to rouse international sympathy by secretly murdering their own," writes correspondent Chris Hedges. "That any claim of innocence can be made, when up to 900 shells a day fell on Sarajevo from the Serb-held hills above, is stunning. But sincere and well-educated Serbs insist this is true."

    Others justify committing genocide as patriotism.

    "Bosnian Serb soldiers who carried out `ethnic cleansing' around Prijedor and Banja Luka said they found the task distasteful, but somehow necessary; in their eyes, they had even engaged in a strange self-sacrifice to see the genocide through," according to Hedges.

    "Like the German Einsatzgruppen in World War II, who lined up Jews, Gypsies and others over open pits and gunned them down, the Bosnian Serb executioners found their work easier to take if they were drunk.

    "`You think any of us found this pleasant?' one Bosnian Serb commander asked. `It was a duty we carried out to save our country.'"

    Hedges notes that the outside world made Germans face up to their war crimes, "when British and U.S. armor forced crowds of cowed Germans to see the death camps for themselves....In the end, that helped allow Germany to rise above its past and rejoin Europe, by forcing it to confront, acknowledge and thus move beyond the Nazi record.

    "In Bosnia, however, the outsiders with the power to force Serbs to confront their past seem more worried, at least so far, about the danger that too much honesty could upset the peace."

    [04] TROOP WITHDRAWALS BEGIN.

    Thousands of Bosnian, Serb, and Croatian fighters pulled back from front-line positions in central and northeastern Bosnia Sunday, five days before Friday's deadline. On Jan. 19, all armies must withdraw to create 4-km (2.5-mile) buffer zones where only IFOR troops (NATO's Implementation Force) may patrol.

    "This is a tremendous beginning," NATO spokesman Maj. Alistair Ross told AP. "It's too early to say the peace will hold, but what we're seeing Sunday hasn't been achieved in almost four years of war."

    The withdrawals took place in the British sector, AP notes, where Serbs are to receive the largest single territorial transfer under the Dayton agreement: 575 square miles.

    Serbs also handed over strategic Mount Vis to U.S. forces Friday, AP reports. The 492-foot peak, which overlooks Tuzla, is to be turned over to the Bosnian government under the Dayton accords. Serbs shelled civilians in a number of nearby villages from Vis.

    Reuters reports that U.S. troops "laid a bridge across a war crater to reconnect the main road between Sarajevo and Tuzla after separatist Serbs cleared it of mines." And, Serbs withdrew from key positions on Mt. Trebevic, CNN reported Friday, from where they have bombarded civilians throughout the city's siege.

    [05] OTHER PROGRESS DELAYED.

    However, U.S. military officials are worried that Serb nationalists are dragging their feet on trading territory.

    "I am very, very disappointed," said Col. John Batiste, commander of the 2nd Brigade Airborne Combat Team, told Reuters in Memici after Serb officials didn't show up for a meeting with Bosnian military and civilian leaders about changing control of roughly 20 villages. It was the second time Serbs failed to show.

    "We made barely any progress and there is very little time left to get this done," Batiste told Reuters.

    [06] CLINTON VISITS TUZLA.

    President Clinton visited U.S. troops serving in Bosnia Saturday, speaking at a U.S. base in Tuzla. "We've asked you not to fight a war, but to give a people exhausted by war the strength to make and stay at peace," he told about 850 soldiers.

    Bosnian civilians, some of whom waited hours in hopes of seeing him, were prevented from getting near the base. The visit was the first by an American president since Bosnian independence.

    [07] CROATS, BOSNIANS EXCHANGE ARTILLERY FIRE.

    Bosnian and Croatian forces traded artillery fire Saturday in the Usora valley, about 35 miles west of Tuzla. It was one of the most serious breaches of the Dayton accord, and came between supposed allies in the Bosnian federation. NATO officials said they convinced troops to withdraw to earlier front-line positions.

    [08] CROATS BLAMED FOR CONTINUED MOSTAR DIVISION.

    German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel blasted "forces on the Croat side" for attempting to sabotage the Bosnian-Croat federation and "put into question the process of multiethnic coexistence." He stressed that Germany would not budge in its support for reunifying the once-ethnically-mixed city, divided after a wave of ethnic cleansing by Croatian militia.

    Germany is one of Croatia's main allies, having been a strong early supporter of Croatian independence from Yugoslavia. The EU is administering the city, but has so far failed to reunify it.

    Admiral Smith called the situation in Mostar "very serious," and said IFOR will have liaison officers for the city and "maintain a dialogue. If (the EU administrator) has a problem here and we have the forces to assist, we will certainly do so." However, he added that peace in Mostar is "a civilian function, not one for the military." Spanish troops are patrolling the front lines only, not the entire city.

    "Some Croat political circles are not ready to give up what they call the Croat state in Bosnia," Bosnian Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic told AP. "I've been trying to warn about this ... but everybody thinks it will go away."

    When traveling from the Croatian-Bosnian border into Croat-controlled Mostar, he notes, "you have a feeling you are in Croatia: everything from the uniforms to the flags is the same, and everything looks like Greater Croatia, not Bosnia."

    President Clinton met with Croatian President Franjo Tudjman after a stop- over in Bosnia this week, urging support for the federation. BBC speculated that Clinton "read Tudjman the riot act" over Croat hard-line nationalism in Bosnia. NATO Secretary General Javier Solana also asked Tudjman to help calm the situation in Mostar.

    The Croatian and Bosnian governments agreed to American mediation to solve disputes in Mostar.

    [09] PRISONER EXCHANGE FALLS THROUGH.

    A planned prisoner exchange Monday collapsed after Serbs refused to account for thousands of missing Bosnians, and the Bosnian government pulled out. All prisoners are to be released by Friday, according to the Dayton peace agreement.

    The Bosnian government says Serbs are still holding an estimated 4,000 prisoners, but agreed to release less than 200. Twenty-five thousand Bosnians are still missing; most are believed to have been killed. The UN's special human-rights investigator for former Yugoslavia, Elizabeth Rehn, said "she has gotten strong indications that thousands of people are still being kept in secret camps in some parts of Bosnia, but declined to give further details," according to AP.

    A Croat-Serb prisoner exchange also broke down this week.

    [10] SERB EXODUS FROM SARAJEVO POSTPONED.

    Serb nationalists backed down from a threat Friday to order an immediate, mass exodus from Sarajevo suburbs which are scheduled to come under government control, Reuters reports. However, Serb hardliners stressed the order was simply suspended. Momcilo Krajisnik, speaker of the Serb nationalists' self-declared parliament, warned of "armed clashes" if the handover is not delayed until September. Serb officials want ample time to take everything of value out, including factory and hospital equipment, from the ethnically-cleansed districts, according to AP.

    Several Serb nationalists attended a meeting with Carl Bildt, head of civilian peace efforts in Bosnia, held in a government- controlled part of Sarajevo. It was the first time that any Serb nationalist leaders have entered the city they have bombarded, starved, and terrorized throughout the war.

    Serbia's President Milosevic -- instrumental in whipping up Serbian nationalism and starting the war -- on Friday urged Serbs to stay in the suburbs slated to return to government control. He reportedly told the "mayor" of occupied Sarajevo, Maksim Stanisic, that the peace agreement guarantees Serbs' rights in the city.

    By Monday, though, western media were reporting heavy traffic along the narrow road out of Serb-occupied suburbs across Mt. Trebevic. Some Serbs are reportedly are paying up to $700 to rent a truck for one day to take out furniture, appliances, and other goods.

    [11] SOME CIVILIANS RELEASED.

    Serb nationalists released three more Bosnian civilians they kidnapped in Ilidza, as the men were attempting to use a road of out Sarajevo. Two were Serbs who have remained loyal to the Bosnian government and ideal of multi-ethnic co-existence.

    One of the man chose to remain on Serb-held territory, according to the UN.

    Two other civilians are still being held after being kidnapped on the Ilidza road.

    Serbs say they are holding a Bosnian Croat, who they captured on another road between Tuzla and Orasje. Serbs accuse the man of war crimes, saying he personally led attacks on villages near Brcko.

    [12] TROOPS INJURED BY MINE BLAST.

    Six Swedish IFOR soldiers were injured when their armored vehicle hit an anti-tank mine east of Maglaj. The injuries were not life-threatening, according to media reports.

    An American vehicle hit another mine near Gradacac, but there were no injuries.

    On Saturday, six shots were fired at British troops near Bosanska Krupa, but there were no injuries. British forces fired two armor-piercing rounds in response, NATO officials said.

    [13] WAR-DAMAGED ELEVATORS LATEST THREAT TO SARAJEVANS.

    "Fifteen-year-old Mensur Zahiragic survived almost four years of deadly shelling and sniping in Sarajevo but died when the elevator he was in crashed down from the 12th floor," AP reports.

    Some city elevators have been damaged by shelling; others are dangerous from a lack of maintenance throughout the siege. City officials reportedly banned riding elevators because of the danger. However, Sarajevans exhausted by lugging firewood, water, and other necessities up darkened stairwells are now risking the elevators now that some electricity has been restored.

    An official at Sarajevostan, which does building maintenance in the city, estimates it will cost $3.3 million to repair buildings in government- controlled parts of Sarajevo. He has sought help from the Soros Foundation for some repair work.

    "`I don't know what is worse, to walk or take the elevators," 69-year-old Ekrem Kulenovic, who lives on the 14th floor, told AP. "Walking tires me to death and taking the elevator scares me to death."

    [14] RUSSIANS ARRIVE TO JOIN NATO FORCES IN BOSNIA.

    About 150 soldiers of a 1,500-member Russian brigade arrived in Bosnia Friday to join the NATO-led Implementation Force in Bosnia. They are supposed to be conducting joint patrols with American forces, under a U.S. commander.

    It is the first time Russian and American soldiers have worked together in a military operation since World War II. Some of the Russians are veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Chechnya.

    [15] BOSNIAN MILITARY TRAINING TO BEGIN.

    Retired U.S. military officials will begin training the Bosnian army in the next 60 days, to try to ensure it can defend its territory from better-armed Serb forces when NATO is scheduled to leave later this year, the NY Times reports. Defense Secretary William Perry told the Times that Islamic countries will be expected to pick up most of the bill, and the regular U.S. Army will not be involved.

    The Pentagon has advised Bosnia to hire Military Professional Resources Inc., which previously trained the Croatian army. Pentagon officials concluded that the Bosnian army's leadership is sound, but unit commanders could use training in logistics, command, control, and operational tactics, according to the Times.

    [16] A FEW MUSLIMS RE-CLAIM HOMES IN BANJA LUKA.

    Fifteen Muslim families have reclaimed homes they were evicted from in the Banja Luka area, the UN's refugee agency reported Monday.

    "Of course this number cannot in any way be compared to the tens of thousands of families who have been evicted," UNHCR spokesman Mons Nyberg told Reuters. "But it is an encouraging development." An estimated half-million non- Serbs were killed, imprisoned, or expelled from the Banja Luka area, which became known as the "Heart of Darkness" for the terror inflicted on non-Serbs there, according to Reuters.

    [17] UN POLICE COMMANDER NAMED.

    Peter Fitzgerald, an assistant commissioner in the Irish police force, has been named to head the UN civilian police force in Bosnia. He has worked with the UN in Namibia, Cambodia, and El Salvador.

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