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How a Serb Massacre Was Exposed

Monitor reporter eluded soldiers and discovered evidence of Serb atrocities

(Page 2 of 2)



Convinced the mass graves were on the other side of the river, I walked away from the center of the village hoping to find a bridge. Traffic had increased, and some men cut hay on a hillside

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Piles of fresh dirt

About a mile up the road, I crossed over a bridge and followed a dirt track back toward the earthen truck crossing. About a mile farther, two 25-foot-high piles of fresh dirt had been dumped near a stream.

The dirt track narrowed, and I crossed into a field. Shots rang out again from a nearby hill and whizzed overhead.I froze. Crouching in the wide open field, I decided to walk slowly. If I ran, I could be mistaken for one of the hundreds of Muslim men from Srebrenica that Bosnian Serb soldiers said were still hiding in the area. The Muslims were being shot on sight, they said.

As I neared the truck crossing, despair began to set in. I saw no indication of digging in any of the fields;. only a relatively new pitch fork lay in my path.

More shots. The sound of a truck passing and men shouting came from the road. A machine gun fired, but this time farther away. Another burst. I realized a group of Bosnian Serb soldiers were driving by celebrating by shooting their guns in the air.

I crossed another field. Nothing. I reached the truck crossing. Nothing. I looked through two abandoned houses. Nothing. Truck tracks crossed the fields, but I thought it was probably hay harvesters. I again looked at the blurry fax of the satellite photo. Again, no river.

Dejected and nervous, I turned back, amazed and embarrassed that I was unable to find the alleged graves. I had ventured into the surrounding fields and spent two hours in the area, something I swore I would not do.

I started back across the field. Three to four shots rang out from hills to my left. Two shots were fired back from my right. I panicked and crouched. Move or stay still. Run or walk. I waited. Silence.

Pitchfork gone

Slowly, I rose and walked across the open field. The right side of my face tingled. No shots. Nothing. But as I retraced my steps, the pitchfork was gone.

I reached the dirt path and saw what looked like some clothes in the distance. The clothes, and empty cloth bag, some papers, a bullet, and Muslim prayer beads lay scattered across the grass. Dozens of the papers had ''Srebrenica'' stamped on them. I grabbed the prayer beads, bullet, and papers and headed back to the car. Along the path I briefly saw the silhouette of a man on a nearby footpath. No shots rang out

Bones discovered

Back at the car, I headed down the steep embankment to check the small field next to the river where earlier I had spotted an area of fresh digging. I finally realized that if the satellite photo only covered a few hundred square yards, then it was possible the river was just outside the frame of the picture.

I walked toward the dirt. To my left, something white jutted from a 20 foot by 20 foot plot of freshly dug earth. Two long, thin bones, one the size and shape of a human femur, the other of a human tibia, stared up at me.

Pictures from friends' medical books and X-rays of my own once-broken femur raced through my mind. I later visited the Belgrade University veterinarian school, staring at the femurs and tibias of cows, horses, pigs, bears, dogs, deer, and other animals. What I saw was too long, too thin for an animal. Traces of blue cloth surrounded the femur as it entered the ground.

Fresh dig

I turned and crisscrossed the larger area of fresh digging and found nothing. A car passed by. I again stared at the bone. Animals and insects appeared to have eaten away all the flesh. When I heard no cars, I scrambled up the embankment.

With one last field to check, I walked nervously down the main road. A truck rounded the corner. A dozen Bosnian Serb soldiers, armed with assault rifles, stood in the back. An area of fresh digging was clearly visible a few hundred yards to my right. The truck sped toward me.

Soldiers watch

I waved. The soldiers stared. The truck slowed, and I stopped breathing. After what seemed an eternity, the driver - apparently slowing for the turn in the road - hit the accelerator and sped off.

I checked the last field, looked at the bones one last time, picked up some shell casings from the side of the road, and got in the car.

As I sped north toward the border, despair washed over me. He must have been tall, I thought, and he must have died horribly.

It was a diploma awarded to a Muslim boy in a village near Srebrenica. And photos, with Muslim names on the backs, were scattered in the grass.