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A Tale of Horror in a Farmer’s Market Covered With Bullet Holes and Blood

April 12, 1996

KRAVICE, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ Nearing the end of a two-week evidence-gathering mission, U.N. war crimes investigators on Friday visited a farmer’s market riddled with baseball-sized bullet holes, its walls and ceilings splattered with blood.

It was here, in the dark rooms of the 180-foot long building, that something horrible happened last July.

Investigators believe several hundred Muslims who survived a deadly Bosnian Serb assault on Srebrenica and then surrendered were locked inside the building and mowed down with machine guns.

One investigator who requested anonymity said the barrage of bullets was so violent that bits of flesh and blood reached the ceiling of the nearly 20-foot high building.

The seven-member U.N. team gathered vast amounts of evidence from the farmer’s market, which sits along the main highway leading through this town of 2,000.

Kravice, situated in a valley between two mountains, is about 12 miles northwest of Srebrenica and about 40 miles southeast of Tuzla Air Base, the headquarters of the U.S. peacekeeping force in Bosnia.

The investigators shot videotape and scores of still photos, narrating the scene into a tape recorder. One member of the team requesting anonymity said the evidence so voluminous that investigators could have stayed for a week.

``We use evidence in linking events with places,″ said Jean Rene Ruez, head of the delegation. ``Just ask your cop in New York City and you will know what we do.″

During their two weeks in Bosnia, the U.N. team covered 10 sites around Srebrenica, where up to 7,000 men are listed as missing, believed slaughtered by Bosnian Serbs. Investigators found human remains and a host of blindfolds among other evidence to support survivors’ accounts.

On Friday, a pastoral scene in the center of town masked the apparent evil deeds at the market: sheep grazed lazily across the highway, tended by shepherds, while families with children strolled down the road, and men drank beer at a makeshift roadway cafe.

But just a few miles away, in the mountains where the ambush occurred, the tableau again turned grisly. The ground was littered with scores of skeletons and scattered clothing from those trapped in the Serb onslaught.

A local Serb official, Jovan Nikolic, one of those drinking beer at the cafe, told a U.S. army liaison team providing security for the investigators that reports that some of the victims of the ambush were civilians are untrue.

``We were fighting here,″ he said, wearing a black shirt he said was a tribute to his brother, who was killed in the fighting.

Neither Nikolic nor any other Serb official attempted to interfere with the investigators. As night fell, the team had secured their evidence in a white U.N. van.

The team is scheduled to visit another site Saturday, then return to The Hague, where the international war crimes tribunal is based. What happens after that, if anything, is unclear. According to some reports, some of the sites are to be excavated beginning in May.

Ruez would say only that the investigators would take the material they collected to the war crimes tribunal, and that it would become public only if an indictment or public hearing follows.

Some observers believe the United Nations, NATO and the United States have not done enough to bring major war criminals to justice for fear of upsetting the Dayton peace agreement.

All told, the war crimes tribunal has indicted 57 suspects so far, including 46 Bosnian Serbs, eight Croats and three Muslims. But only four of them are in tribunal custody. Two others are in German jails waiting to be sent to The Hague.

Serb authorities have refused to surrender indicted suspects, claiming the tribunal is biased against them. U.S. officials have said their policy is to not go out of their way to apprehend war criminals.

The Serbs have been accused in some reports of tampering with the sites to cover up alleged atrocities.

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