KARAKAJ — IN separate impromptu interviews, Smail Hodjic, Mevludin Oric, and Hurem Suljic, all Muslim men from the Srebrenica enclave, said they were captured by Bosnian Serb soldiers and later survived the mass execution of as many as 2,000 prisoners near the village of Karakaj.
The three men described being taken to a school gym near Karakaj packed with at least 2,000 prisoners. The gym, a little larger than a single basketball court, was so full of prisoners that some men had to sit on others' laps.
Mr. Oric says he saw Bosnian Serb commander Gen. Ratko Mladic in the school just before prisoners were blindfolded and taken by van in groups of 20 to 30 to execution sites in two fields separated by a row of trees
Hodjic says he saw General Mladic driving in a car to the site. Mr. Suljic says he saw Mladic at the site as executions occurred. The three men say the execution sites were a 10-minute drive from the school and railroad tracks are near the site.
All three described seeing rows of dead bodies in front of them before they were lined up to be shot. They were saved because other dead men fell on top of them and covered them up.
Muslim men played dead
Mr. Hodjic, a retired agricultural worker, says he fell forward when firing began, and he played dead for an hour-and-a-half and then crawled through at least 20 rows of bodies to escape. Hodjic says the executions continued for two hours, with a new group of prisoners arriving about every 20 minutes.
Mr. Oric and Mr. Suljic say they hid under bodies for up to four hours until the executions finished and escaped together. They met Hodjic in the woods three days later. Seven days later, they crossed into government territory.
Hodjic says he believed the executions took place on July 13, but Suljic and Oric say they took place on July 14. Hodjic appears to have the sequence of events incorrect by one day.
All three believe they were the only survivors of the execution of the 2,000 men in the gym. All three also say bulldozers buried the bodies in a large mass grave in the two fields.
Another massacre site
Two other men in separate interviews said they survived executions at another sight near Karakaj. Both Nedzad Avdic, and a man who asked not to be identified because he feared retribution against his family, were captured in separate incidents on July 13 near Kravice.
Mr. Avdic spent the night in a truck in Bratunac and the other man spent the night in a truck in Kravica. They were taken to a school near Karakaj on July 14 in separate convoys.
They say they were placed in classrooms packed with other prisoners. Groups of 20 to 30 men were then stripped from the waist up, had their hands tied, and were taken by a truck to the grounds of the waste dump and sewage canal of an aluminum oxide factory in Karakaj. They were then lined up and shot.
Avdic, who says he was wounded when the firing began, showed wounds matching his story. The other man said a bullet wound that nicked his head led Serb soldiers to believe he was dead.
The two escaped together when Bosnian Serb soldiers briefly departed to get more prisoners. The two said they were unsure how many bodies were at the site because it was dark.
Hiding in nearby woods, the man says he heard shooting continue at the location until midnight.
The following day, he saw a bulldozer putting bodies in trucks that were driven away to an unknown disposal site. Fourteen days later, the two men crossed into government-held territory.