Survivors tell of massacre following fall of Srebrenica

Only three escaped as 3,000 were systematically mowed down

AIDA CERKEZ

Associated Press

Tuzla - The Serbs had promised that the prisoners would be exchanged. But as he clambered off a truck with other Muslim captives, Hurem Suljic encountered a green hillside covered with bodies. In the next hours, first under the July sun and then by the headlights of two excavators, as many as 3,000 Muslim men captured when Serbs overran the east Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica were mowed down. Those who did not die immediately were killed by pistol shots to the head.

Only three men are known to have survived, one of them Mr Suljic, 54,a disabled bricklayer. Their accounts of the massacre provide a key link in evidence of Serb atrocities after the enclave fell. They point not only to a previously unsuspected massacre site, but also place the Bosnian Serb military commander, General Ratko Mladic, at the scene.

The Red Cross has said 8,000 of the 42,000 people in Srebrenica before its fall remain unaccounted for. US intelligence photos have indicated mass graves around Nova Kasaba, west of Srebrenica. Madeleine Albright, US ambassador to the United Nations, told the Security Council as many as 2,700 people might be buried there.

Journalists have reported evidence of human remains: Serbs suggest they are those of of 3,000 Bosnian government soldiers killed defending Srebrenica. But the story told by the survivors, interviewed separately, points to a different explanation. They have spoken to Bosnian government investigators gathering information to present to the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague, which has already indicted Gen Mladic as a suspected war criminal.

As Srebrenica fell, its people could hope UN soldiers could protect them, or try to escape west through Serb-held forests to government territory.

Mr Suljic thought the Serbs would have no use for a bricklayer with a bad leg, and joined thousands of others - mostly women and children - seeking refuge at the main UN base. But Serbs occupied it and while Dutch peace-keepers watched helplessly, separated several hundred men, including Mr Suljic, and shut them in a warehouse. He said some 100 were taken away the first day.

The next day Gen Mladic visited and said they would be exchanged for Serbs. But instead of heading to the front line, they were taken to a sweltering sports hall in Krizevci, 22 miles north of Srebrenica.

Through the night, bus after bus arrived. On one was Mevludin Oric, 25, a soldier captured as he fled through the woods. Mr Oric said his captors were driving UN vehicles. Mr Suljic said he counted four to five men to a square yard, a total of 2,400 to 3,000. Gen Mladic appeared again on 14 July, three days after the fall of Srebrenica. "We started yelling at him, 'Why are you suffocating us here? Better kill us all'." Finally, the prisoner exchange was said to be ready. Groups were taken and placed in two trucks, 10 to 15 men in each.

"We went a bit up the hill, slowly," Mr Suljic said. "The sound of some machines was becoming louder and louder ... The truck turned left and stopped in the grass. We saw a field covered with bodies. They ordered us to come out and line up with our backs to the soldiers, and our faces to the field of bodies."

There were two firing-squads of five soldiers each. Mr Suljic was in the first row, with two rows of prisoners between him and the Serb guns. "I could hear automatic gunfire. They fell on me, and I fell on my stomach. But I wasn't hit," he said.

Mr Oric was with a cousin, who grabbed his hand as they got into a truck shortly after Mr Suljic. When they saw the killing-field, "my cousin grabbed my hand again and said, 'Mevlo, they're going to kill us'," Mr Oric said. As the shooting began he dived to the ground. "I didn't move. I stayed lying there for nine hours."

In intervals between the shooting a Serb walked among the bodies and finished off those still moving with a pistol shot to the head, both survivors said. At one point, Mr Suljic said, Gen Mladic appeared near by. "He took a look and left quickly." Group by group, trucks brought prisoners, who were shot in turn. When it became dark, the soldiers used headlights of the two diggers.

Finally the shooting stopped, and Mr Oric heard a voice saying the dead would not be buried that night. But guards refused to stay the night, and all the Serbs eventually left.

Mr Suljic stood and looked around. Moonlight illuminated "a sea of bodies". He tried to shout "Is there anybody alive? If there is someone, get up, and let's go." It came out as a whisper. But it was loud enough for Mr Oric, lying 20 yards away. As he stood, he said, "The only thing I saw was dead people all over the place ... I got very scared and started crying. I couldn't stop. This man came to me, it was Hurem, and he asked if I was wounded."

Stepping over bodies, the two headed into the forest. In the morning, they reached a burned-out village. Stopping to pick apples, they saw a man ahead. It was Smail Hodzic, the third known survivor. They climbed a hill, oriented themselves, and began walking towards government positions. Three days later, they crossed a minefield at the front line and were met by Bosnian soldiers.

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
beauty
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Midsummer swimwear season is well and truly upon us – but diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BC2

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Linux Systems Administrator

£33000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly successfu...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice