Bosnian Tells Of Surviving Serb Massacre
Sep. 23, 1992
ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) _ A Bosnian Muslim says a split-second decision to leap into a ravine saved his life while Serbs killed about 200 fellow prisoners and heaved their bodies down the slope.
''One of the bodies fell about five meters from me, so that the man's brain's were all over my chest,'' said Semir, 24, who said he knew of just one other man who survived the massacre last month.
Semir asked The Associated Press not to photograph him or use his family name on the chance one of his brothers might also have survived the killing, which he said occurred Aug. 21.
In Sarajevo, Bosnia's Investigative Commission for War Crimes said it had ''all the details'' about the alleged massacre, including the names of the victims and those who killed them.
''After the war, we intend to try the perpetrators for war crimes,'' said the commission chief, Mirsad Tokaca.
The Bush administration said Tuesday that it also was investigating reports of the massacre.
On Tuesday, U.S. officials submitted to the United Nations a report they said supports claims that warring factions have engaged in torture, attacks on civilians and other human-rights abuses.
But the Bush administration said the facts must be established before a war crimes tribunal can be convened.
Reports of massacres, perpetrated by all warring parties, have been frequent since Yugoslavia began to break up last year. The stories often cannot be independently verified.
Sometimes, reporters come across the aftermath, as the Associated Press did on Sept. 11 near Rogatica in Bosnia-Herzegovina. A Muslim assault on a column of Serb refugees had left charred skeletons and decomposing corpses along the road. Witnesses said at least 50 Serbs were killed.
Serbs have been most often cited as perpetrators of massacres, and that was the case in the story Semir related Tuesday in Zagreb, Croatia's capital.
He said Serbs caught him in mid-July near Prijedor in northern Bosnia, and held him in a detention camp at the nearby Keraterm ceramics factory.
He was later moved to a camp at Trnopolje. On Aug. 21, he said five buses came to the camp. Women and children were put in one bus; men and teen-age boys in the others.
''We were told not to be afraid because they would take us for exchange near Travnik,'' Semir said. Travnik was the closest large town held by Muslims and Croats, about 60 miles to the southeast.
But when the convoy reached the Ugar River canyon, Semir said buses carrying about 50 women and children moved on and 10 Serb military policemen began shooting the men and boys.
''They called one by one for people to get out of the bus, took them behind the bus, and the only thing we heard was a shot,'' Semir said.
Semir said he decided to try to escape, but his two older brothers wouldn't go with him.
''I was afraid of a bullet in my head, and especially of my throat being cut,'' said Semir.
After a brother and a 16-year-old nephew were taken out and shot, Semir said, he jumped out of the bus, pushed a Serb policeman and leaped into the ravine.
''Later I realized I was very lucky, because a tree stopped me only about 30 meters (yards) from the top of the canyon, otherwise I'd be dead.''
He hung from the tree as if dead, he said, after one of the policemen shot at him.
Semir said he recognized several of the killers because they were from his home, Corakovo.
After nightfall, Semir said, he and another man, who was wounded in the leg and shoulder, reached the bottom of the canyon and then separated.
Semir said he saw the other man eight days later after slipping through Serb-held territory to reach Jajce, a Muslim-held town 20 miles west of the canyon.