Muslims take revenge on Croat village: 'Gruesome' aftermath of civilian massacre described by UN refugee worker in central Bosnian village

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The Independent Online
SARAJEVO - Muslim fighters in central Bosnia lined up four Croatian villagers, sliced off the face of one and cut the others' throats in retaliation for the death of one of their own men, a relief worker reported yesterday.

'Their corpses were gruesome,' said Margaret Green, who works for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in a report relayed by John McMillan, the agency's spokesman in Sarajevo.

'One man's face had been sliced off. Another's head was almost severed,' Ms Green said. 'Two others had had their throats cut. I saw the house where the men must have been killed. There were pools of congealed blood and bits of bone and tissue covering the living room floor. A trail of dried blood led from the doorway, down the steps, to the centre of the village.'

Ms Green spoke of visiting the tiny village of Miletici, 12 miles north-west of Zenica, this week and seeing the evidence of the 'horrible massacre' last Saturday.

She said the villagers identified the attackers as 'mujahedin'. That term can denote either volunteers from Islamic countries fighting alongside the mainly Muslim Bosnian army or local Muslim fundamentalists, most of whom come from Sandzak, an area spanning south-western Serbia and north-western Montenegro, and some of whom have fought in foreign Islamic wars.

Ms Green reported that the Roman Catholic villagers said the mujahedin mounted a short, sharp attack on the 11 houses in Miletici. The villagers were certainly outnumbered, she said, but managed to kill one of the attackers. She said the mujahedin announced that each mujahedin life was worth five civilian lives.

One civilian had been killed in the attack, so they lined up four men between the ages of 20 and 40, she said. The mujahedin took the four men into one house, then tied up all the other villagers before torturing and executing the victims. Ms Green said the bodies were still in the village when she visited it.

Mr McMillan said the commanders of the Bosnian army had acknowledged that rogue units were refusing to obey ceasefire orders in central Bosnia, and the Croatian military leaders are reported to be having similar problems with undisciplined Croatian units, some of whom are reported to have crossed the border from Croatia.

Atrocities have been reported on both sides, some by Croats wearing swastika armbands and the badges that the Croatian Ustashe fighters wore in the Second World War when they fought alongside the Germans.

The rogue Croatian units are 'just as vicious' as the mujahedin, Mr McMillan said. 'Both groups are basically uncontrollable. They seem motivated more by revenge than any military objective.'

The ceasefire in central Bosnia appeared to be holding yesterday among the more regular forces, as rival Croatian and Muslim troops arranged an exchange of prisoners and bodies. Major Martin Waters, spokesman for the British UN battalion in Vitez, reported yesterday morning that all appeared quiet in the area after two weeks of savage fighting which saw civilians swept up in a maelstrom of atrocities.

He said the overall commanders of the two forces, Sefer Halilovic of the Bosnian army and General Milivoj Petkovic of the Croatian forces, were touring the front lines with the British peace-keepers to ensure that the latest ceasefire held.

(Photograph omitted)

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