Monday, July 11, 2005

50,000 mourn Srebrenica dead - CNN

SREBRENICA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) -- Some 50,000 people gathered Monday to remember the victims of the slaughter that ensued when Serbs overran the U.N.-protected Muslim enclave of Srebrenica during the war in Bosnia in July 1995.

Nearly 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed in Europe's worst massacre of civilians since World War II.

The sound of Muslim prayer echoed through a loudspeaker as relatives wandered among 610 caskets containing newly identified remains.The remains were to be buried alongside other victims in the cemetery that is part of the Memorial Center in Srebrenica.

"They killed my entire life and the only thing I want now is to see the guilty ones pay for it," said Fatima Budic, 60, as she wept next to the coffin of her son Velija, who was only 14. Her husband Ohran and another son, who was 16, have never been found.

The killings in what was then a U.N.-protected zone came shortly before the end of the 1992-95 war. The bodies were dumped in mass graves across the countryside and are still being found. Thousands are still missing.

"The worst crime to take place in Europe in the latter part of the twentieth century took place here. The world's failure to protect the people of this country and the people in Potocari in particular is our greatest shame," said Bosnia's top international official, Paddy Ashdown.

Apart from the survivors and local guests, the 10th anniversary of the massacre was being attended by presidents of countries in the region and by foreign ambassadors -- including the U.S. architect of the peace agreement that ended the war in Bosnia, Richard H. Holbrooke.

The dignitaries visited a recently opened mass grave near Srebrenica, where they saw a mixture of bones of some 30 victims who were buried there after being shot at a nearby warehouse.

"That's where between 1,000 to 1,200 Bosnian Muslims were shot in two or three hours. We are talking about a mass execution with automatic weapons," said Amor Masovic, head of the Muslim Commission for Missing Persons.

A Srebrenica survivor, Hana Avdic, 41, who now lives in Charlotte, N.C., came to bury her brother Ahmo, who was 36 when he was killed. "This is the first time I have come back to Srebrenica since then. I always wanted to come back, but not for such a sad occasion," she said.

Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic and his military commander, Gen. Ratko Mladic, have been indicted by the U.N. tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, for genocide and crimes against humanity at Srebrenica and elsewhere. Both are still at large.

Serbian President Boris Tadic was expected to attend the service, a significant gesture given Serbia's political and military backing of the Bosnian Serbs during the war.

Among other officials attending were members of Bosnia's three-person presidency, which governs the country divided by the U.S.-brokered peace agreement into a Bosnian Serb mini state and a Bosnian-Croat Federation, as well as the Croatian President, Stipe Mesic, and the head of the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz.

Forensics experts so far have exhumed more than 5,000 bodies, 2,032 of which have been identified through DNA analysis and other techniques. More than 1,300 Srebrenica victims are already buried at the cemetery, which is part of the memorial center.

Some 250,000 people were killed in the war between Bosnian Muslims, Catholic Croats and Orthodox Serbs.

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