Serbs Admit Mass Execution of Bosniak Civilians
By Mary Battiata
The Daily Gazette
28 September 1992.
Banja Luka, Bosnia-Herzegovina — A top police official in a Serb-controlled area of Bosnia has confirmed the Aug. 21 killing of dozens of Bosniak men and boys being taken by bus from the Serb-run Trnopolje concentration camp to promised safety in the Muslim-held city of Travnik.
“A certain number of the people who were heading for Travnik lost their lives that day,” Stojan Zupljanin, chief of security services here, said on Friday.
Zupljanin, a Serb who commands the 6,000-square-mile area that includes the steep canyon where the mass execution occurred, said “about 50 or more bodies” had been found. “I have information that there are [still] some corpses in that area,” he said, adding that the mountainous terrain in that area was slowing the investigation.
But sources in the Banja Luka police department said at least 188 bodies have been found in the steep canyon at a place known as Varijanta, on Serb-controlled Vlasic Mountain above the Ilomska River, 40 miles southeast of here.
Zupljanin said he did not yet know who was responsible for the killings.
“An investigation is in progress,” he said. “We will find those who are guilty in this case, and we will bring them to justice.”
Survivors’ descriptions of a massacre of more than 200 Muslim men and boys were reported last week in The Washington post. The survivors said a group of 10 Serb police separated buses carrying more than 200 men and boys – some as young as 16 – from other vehicles carrying family members, forced them to line up at the canyon rim, shot them at close range and pushed them over the edge.
The survivors, who gave their accounts after wandering for weeks behind Serb lines before reaching Travnik, said they had escaped being shot by jumping into the canyon as soon as they were forced out of their buses.
The Post has located at least five more survivors whose accounts closely match those of the previous witnesses. The newest survivors are unknown to the others and have had no contact with them.
Many of the survivors, as well as family members who reached Travnik, have identified the police officer who allegedly supervised and participated in the mass execution as a Bosnian Serb who had a reputation for lawlessness and cruelty even before the republic’s civil war among its Slavic Bosniak, Serb and Croat communities began five months ago.
He is said to be a member of the Bosnian Serb police based in the large town of Prijedor, about 20 miles west of Banja Luka, where Serb extremists have been expelling non-Serbs in a violent relocation campaign known as “ethnic cleansing.”