Children killed in Sarajevo minefield

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It was hours before Ema Alic's terrible screams fell silent. The 11-year-old Bosnian girl and her two 12-year-old friends had strayed into one of the dozens of minefields that encircle the capital Sarajevo.

Goran Biscevic and Haris Balicevac died instantly in the explosion, on Monday, but Ema was left screaming and waving for help. People gathered by the field, but no one dared venture in after her.

Eventually, Nato-led peacekeeping troops and a mine clearance team arrived. But it took hours to reach the children. By then, all were dead.

Local experts said the lethal patch of land had been earmarked for mine clearance but work had been halted because of lack of money. Signs around the field warned of danger but the land was not sealed off.

The force of the blast sent "the body of one child through the air", said a witness, Nenad Krestalica. "I also heard the crying voice," he said. "For two hours, the girl was showing signs of life, waved with her little hand, and called for help. Then she went quiet."

Mr Krestalica's wife, Stana, 60, said she was working in her garden when she heard the explosion. "We all started running. We heard a child's voice screaming for help. We called the police and they came, but nobody could approach the children."

Bosnia is strewn with millions of landmines four years after the end of the war. Demining could take decades, but there is little money available. The field where the three children were killed was among 77 de-mining projects around Sarajevo which have been put on hold because of a lack of cash. Some 500 de-mining experts are believed to be unemployed in Bosnia because there is no money to pay them.