Bosniak Victims Thrown into Animal Rendering Plant, U.S. Confirms Massacre in Bosnia
26 September 1992.
WASHINGTON — Ultranationalist Serbs were killing Muslims [Bosniaks] in Bosnia at the rate of up to 50 at a time, then secretly cremating their bodies at night and disposing of them in a rendering plant, according to eyewitness reports that the State Department now accepts as credible.
Senior U.S. officials confirmed Saturday that the State Department last week for the first time obtained graphic, first-person accounts corroborating a massacre of about 3,000 people last May in two Serbian concentration camps operated at a brick factory and a pig farm near the Bosnian town of Brcko.
“This could have been happening in other places, too,” one State Department official said Saturday. He said he doubted that such massacres were continuing today, “given the exposure that has taken place since August.”
The State Department’s reports, obtained by American diplomats, essentially corroborate and give further details to a story first reported in early August by Newsday, which published eyewitness accounts of prisoners who had been released from Serbian concentration camps at Brcko and Omarska in Bosnia.
The Brcko killings were carried out under the direction of ultranationalist Serb leaders known as Vojislav Seselj and [Zeljko Raznjatovic] Arkan (who uses only one name), a senior State Department official said.
These new reports provided the basis under which acting Secretary of State Lawrence S. Eagleburger last week urged the United Nations to set up a commission to investigate war crimes in Bosnia.
Although the Bush administration has supported the use of force to deliver humanitarian aid in Bosnia, it has so far avoided calling for military intervention to try to bring about peace or to safeguard Bosnian Muslims.
The United States is now talking with its allies about the possibility of setting up a “no-fly zone” that would bar Serb forces or those of the Serbian-dominated rump Yugoslav federation from staging air strikes over Bosnia.
After the initial press reports of a Brcko massacre, a 53-year-old man from Brcko named Alija Luginovic came to Washington and gave his account before a closed session of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He described how more than 1,000 captives of a concentration camp had been slaughtered by Serb guards.
A State Department officials said that last week, American diplomats interviewed a number of former prisoners of the camps at Brcko. On the basis of those interviews, he said, it is apparent that the number of people killed was higher than Luginovic had estimated.
“Many people were killed, in groups of up to 50 at a time,” the State Department official said. “A total of about 3,000 people, men, women and children, were killed in the camps at Brcko.”
He said at least some of the prisoners were beaten and tortured before they were killed.
One of the former prisoners at the camp told U.S. officials that “he several times had to transfer dead people to an animal rendering plant, where they secretly cremated bodies at night to evade detection,” according to a senior State Department officials.