Graves Found That Confirm Bosnia Massacre
Into Bosnia's Killing Fields Series starts tomorrow on how Monitor reporter David Rohde was captured and released by Bosnian Serbs.
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The school, the railroad tracks, and the earthen dam that five survivors described were found in the area around Sahanici. Two mass graves found near a school are exactly where three of the survivors say they should be. Ten miles away at the Red Mud Dam, two human femurs were found on a gravel plateau that two survivors say was an execution site.Skip to next paragraph
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Bosnian Serb police and civilians vehemently deny that any massacres took place after the fall of Srebrenica and say they are willing to grant access to the area. Any mass graves that exist are filled with Muslim soldiers fleeing Srebrenica who were killed as they tried to fight their way to government-held central Bosnia. Any human remains, documents, or clothes found in the area are either from Muslims who fought their way through the area this summer, they claim, or from heavy fighting that occurred there when war broke out in 1992.
In a possible explanation for what may have motivated the massacres, Bosnian Serbs bitterly accused Srebrenica's Muslim military commander, Nasir Oric, of massacring some 1,300 Serb civilians in fighting in the area in 1992. UN officials say Mr. Oric, who played a videotape of murdered Serb civilians to Western reporters in 1994, did launch a handful of subsequent raids from the theoretically demilitarized UN ''safe area'' of Srebrenica.
But the clothes, documents, and digging at the two sites, which are 10 to 15 miles from the main escape route used by fleeing Muslims and appeared to be no more than a few months old, were overwhelming evidence that civilians were massacred:
r Three canes, a crutch, and some 100 civilian jackets were found in a large pile 100 feet from the two mass graves, indicating that civilians, elderly, and the handicapped were among those executed.
r An identity card from the Muslim safe area of Srebrenica, an identity card with a Muslim name on it, and personal photos with Muslim names - including one from a young girl who had written ''I love you, Meho'' on the back of a small portrait - were found in the jackets.
r The smaller of the two graves near the Sahanici school reeked of rotting flesh.
r Thirty to 40 shoes, a pair of pants, a shirt, a blue civilian beret, socks, and shattered eyeglasses still in their case were found scattered across the top of the graves.
r The two graves near the Sahanici school are adjacent to railroad tracks and a paved road and are in two adjacent fields - details that match the descriptions of three men who say they survived a massacre there.
r The layout of a school a half mile from the graves perfectly matches the descriptions of survivors who say that more than 1,000 Muslim prisoners, including elderly men taken from outside the main UN base in Srebrenica, were gathered before they were executed. Adding credibility to the survivors' accounts, Bosnian Serb police, who confiscated pictures the Monitor took of the school where massacre survivors say they saw Bosnian Serb commander Mladic, said the school is a military installation.
At the second site, evidence of another mass execution was found. Two human femurs were seen on a gravel plateau. A bucket loader had removed a half-dozen scoops of dirt from a nearby hill, possibly using it to bury bodies.
The layout of the dam, the existence of the gravel plateau where the bones were seen, and a nearby drainage ditch, exactly matches the description of two Muslims who say 500 to 1,000 Muslims were massacred there.
Four months after the fall of Srebrenica, the International Committee of the Red Cross says that 8,500 men from Srebrenica are still unaccounted for. At least 3,000 of those men were last seen in Bosnian Serb custody, according to eyewitnesses.
US officials estimate that as many as 6,000 Muslims were executed by the Serbs. War crimes investigators estimate that 4,000 to 6,000 Muslims were massacred.
Each of the six potential graves matches the description of a massacre survivor, a witness of an execution, or a witness of a mass burial interviewed by the Monitor.
A final, accurate accounting of the Srebrenica massacres will only come if Sahanici and the other five sites are dredged for the truth.