Bodies pile up in horror of Srebrenica

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The video camera panned across the ground in front of the anonymous building in Srebrenica for perhaps four or five seconds, but it was time enough to freeze the blood in any television viewer's veins.

The area was full of what at first glance appeared to be bundles of abandoned belongings, clothes mainly, piled up higgledy-piggledy at the foot of a wall pock-marked with bullet holes. It was not until the Belgrade reporter made his comment that the gruesome reality of the pile struck home.

"There are many dead Muslim soldiers," the reporter said as the picture of the wall abruptly dissolved into footage of Bosnian Serb soldiers riding triumphantly through Srebrenica on horseback. "Go back to the shot of the wall and stop it there," I shouted. When the technician stopped the film, there it was in freeze frame: the horror of Srebrenica in piles two feet high. The bundles were clearly not empty clothes. They had heads, arms and legs. The fit body of a young man in the foreground filled out a white T-shirt. The bodies up against the wall looked to be three deep in places. It was impossible to make out the exact number, but 25 would be a reasonable guess.

At about shoulder height above the bodies were what appeared to be brownish- red blotches on the yellowish wall and dark sticky-looking stains on the black garage doors behind the cadavers. There were bullet holes everywhere.

The implication of the report by the independent Serb television channel, Studo B, which was not overtly pro-Bosnian Serb but clearly sympathetic, was that these were Muslim soldiers killed in combat. The scene, however, looked more like a place of summary execution than of combat.

The film was made last Thursday, two days after Srebrenica was overrun by Bosnian Serb soldiers. The footage of the bodies appears to support the testimony of refugees from Srebrenica who claim that they saw men dragged away by Serb soldiers, heard gunshots and later saw bodies against walls or ditches on the roadside. Muslim soldiers from Srebrenica are especially hated by the Serbs for waging a guerilla war against them during the conflict.

The Bosnian Serb army commander, General Ratko Mladic, reportedly telephoned a Dutch United Nations officer last week to tell him that there were "hundreds" of dead bodies around Srebrenica. He was quoted by a UN official as saying that the Serbs had been forced to kill "lots of people because they were trying to break out of Srebrenica". The fate of the menfolk of Srebrenica has been a concern to their families and international human rights since the enclave fell last Tuesday. A delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross was prohibited again yesterday from visiting Bratunac, the town near Srebrenica where many of the captured Muslim men are believed to be held.

The reports that men of draft age were separated from the women for "screening" were substantiated by the film. A group of Muslim men are shown on their knees on the second storey balcony of a house in town. The men peer helplessly at the camera through the wooden rails. Their humiliation and fear are clearly visible in their eyes.