Muslims hope graves will solve macabre mystery
Emma Daly went back to Kljuc with men whose families fell into Serb hands
Tuesday 26 September 1995
The litter of war lines the road from Bihac to Kljuc: a few bodies wrapped in blankets, cars shot to pieces, the hulks of gutted tanks and everywhere blankets and odd shoes - the debris of Serb civilians fleeing east.
The west-bound traffic consists of overloaded haycarts and tractors towing trailers filled with booty: an old woman sitting on a plundered sofa, a man herding formerly Serb cattle, soldiers driving trucks with cyrillic number-plates. But perhaps the most important gain will be the truth about what happened to those left behind.
Fudo Kestic, a soldier on duty amid the ruins of what had been the Muslim village of Krasulje, told a harrowing tale of leaving his home in Kljuc amid the smoke of houses put to the torch and the cries of women and children left behind, including his mother and 17-year-old sister.
"I could hear a child crying: `Mama, Mama ...' he said. Mr Kestic, 24, said he was one of 149 Bosnian men who escaped from Kljuc, when it fell to the Bosnian Serb army in May 1992, by trading 62 Serb hostages. When the fighters withdrew they left the others behind, hoping they would be respected as civilians.
"We fled up Mount Grmec and all we could hear were the women and children crying and the songs of the drunken Chetniks," Mr Kestic said. "All we could see were our houses burning." He last heard of his family as prisoners in the Serb camp at Manjaca. He does not expect to see them again: "I heard what the Serbs were doing, so I lost hope."
Their fate may be uncovered in the wake of the Bosnian offensive, which has yielded thousands of documents abandoned by Serb forces as well as what may be many mass graves, including one close to Mr Kestic's position. We were not allowed to visit it, as it was too close to the front line, but down the road towards Kljuc, we visited another site in a wood.
The dark mud had been turned over to expose a single shoe and a clothed skeleton. The government is expected to excavate the area, as well as a small field in the village of Prhovo which we were also barred from visiting.
A soldier led journalists to the site in Prhovo, weeping as he described witnessing the massacre of his family. "I watched from the woods as they bulldozed the corpses into the ground in front of our house," said Senad Medanovic, 25. The only thing he has left to remind him of his family is a small medallion with two hearts and the name of his sister, Enesa. The family of her boyfriend saved it for him.
Skulls and other remains have been found as local officials begin inspecting five possible mass graves around Kljuc.
Light digging has begun at the one site and a Bosnian government commission is working out a plan to investigate the entire area. Chris Gunness, a UN spokesman in Zagreb, said the local authorities told UN military observers that there were 40 possible mass grave sites in the area. "When we fled it was dusk, everything smelt of smoke," Mr Kestic said. "When we came back, all we could think about was to keep marching forward. We knew the people we were fighting were those who had torched our villages. At each village we reached, everyone had a picture in his mind of what had happened."
peopleContenders for Time magazine's Person of the Year are a mixture of the good, the bad and the holy
newsAs the world remembers Mandela the hero, the prison where he spent 27 years seems all the more brutal
tvSteven Moffat reveals the actor was dying to take on the role of the Time Lord and says he is excited to see what he will do with the character
sportBayern Munich 2 Manchester City 3: City come from two down to beat reigning European Champions
arts + ents... and a chance to paint Booker Prize winning author Hilary Mantel
danceUnder Tamara Rojo's inspired direction, it seems possible that it could challenge the dominance of the Royal Ballet. We meet some established names and rising stars
travelDiscover Uruguay's jet-set beach resort, an Atlantic enclave with plenty of art and culture to explore on the side
The ten coldest places on Earth
Sir Ian McKellen hits back at Damian Lewis' 'fruity actor' claims
Kenyan politician Mike Sonko left red-faced after photoshopping himself next to Nelson Mandela
Krokodil in Mexico? Teenager hospitalised after 'injecting drug into her genitals'
Nelson Mandela memorial: Cheers, jeers and a masterclass from Barack Obama that stole the show
- 1 Mountain goats' miraculous escape from avalanche captured in dramatic video footage
- 2 It’s shameful that our universities have accepted gender segregation under pressure from the most oppressive religious fanatics
- 3 Sir Ian McKellen hits back at Damian Lewis' 'fruity actor' claims
- 4 Kenyan politician Mike Sonko left red-faced after photoshopping himself next to Nelson Mandela
- 5 Selfie at funeral: Cameron squeezes in on Obama snap at Mandela memorial
- < Previous
- Next >
£55000 - £66000 per annum + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Top 10 Seeking Ma...
£50000 - £55000 per annum + excellent benefits : Pro-Recruitment Group: Senior...
£70000 - £90000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Pro-Recruitment Group: Our leadi...
£50000 - £65000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: A leading mark...