Cerska Massacre, Serbs Butcher Bosniak Civilians with Knives
Cerska massacre, “They carried out a massacre in the school,” said Mr. Muminovic. “They killed people with knives. Some of the dead and living were butchered.”
Bosnian Soldiers Report Massacre by Serbs in a Schoolhouse
By Chuck Sudetic,
Published: March 19, 1993
TUZLA, Bosnia and Herzegovina, March 18— The first Bosnian Government soldiers to arrive here from an eastern enclave overrun by Serbian nationalist fighters gave accounts today of the killings of dozens of Bosniak civilians by the advancing Serbs.
Two of the Bosnian soldiers said they witnessed killings in Cerska [near Srebrenica] and the neighboring village of Velici, which were overrun between Feb. 27 and March 1, when poorly-armed, predominantly Muslim locals lost the area to attacking Serbs.
Sahma Muminovic, a 21-year-old Muslim Slav soldier recovering in Tuzla’s main hospital from wounds he said he sustained crossing through Serbian lines, said today that he witnessed the killing of civilians trapped in a schoolhouse in Cerska by Serbian troops reinforced by tanks and artillery.
“They carried out a massacre in the school,” said Mr. Muminovic. “They killed people with knives. Some of the dead and living were butchered.”
Ham radio operators from Cerska first reported such killings, including one in the town’s schoolhouse, to United Nations officials almost three weeks ago.
The accounts of the Cerska schoolhouse incident by Mr. Muminovic, the only witness interviewed who said he saw the massacre first hand, differed from the ham radio accounts only in the Muslim soldier’s assertion that the Serbian troops did not kill all the people in the building.
“I was 500 yards away when I saw them go into the schoolhouse,” Mr. Muminovic said, referring to Serbian fighters. He said he and some comrades tried to reach the schoolhouse to help some of the 50 to 70 townspeople who had taken refuge there.
“I got to within 15 yards of the schoolhouse,” Mr. Muminovic said. “I could see through the window what was happening. My friends and I tried to save them but we could not.”
Mr. Muminovic and one other wounded Bosnian soldier who escaped the Serbian encirclement said the Serbian fighters bombarded the schoolhouse with artillery and tank shells before moving in and killing people.
“About half of the people were killed in the bombardment,” Mr. Muminovic said.
The Serbian fighters took some people alive from the schoolhouse, loaded them into trucks and buses and drove them toward the nearby town of Vlasenica, Mr. Muminovic said.
The Bosnian soldiers arrived in Tuzla late Tuesday night with 13 men and a woman who had fled the town. They said they walked out of the Konjevic valley on Saturday night and fought through Serbian lines on Tuesday. U.N. Discounted Reports
After visiting the Cerska area on March 6, the commander of the United Nations forces in Bosnia, Gen. Philippe Morillon of France, said he saw no evidence of a massacre. [General Morillon was heavily pro-Serb during the war and his biased reporting should be dismissed without any hesitation. The schoolhouse where the massacre occurred was completely destroyed with bodies of dead people removed and thrown into mass graves. Survivors of the massacre were interned in the Susica concentration camp, near Srebrenica. Read a testimony of the Cerska massacre survivor]
United Nations officials here who were with General Morillon in Cerska said that by the time the general saw the school building, it had been completely destroyed.
Mevledin Korkutovic, a 30-year-old Muslim fighter, said today he also saw the civilians in the Cerska school come under heavy shellfire and gunfire from Serbian tanks.
“The chetniks came in with about five tanks and armored personnel carriers,” he said, referring to the Serbian nationalist forces. “They shot at everything and didn’t select their targets.”
“We left the school in a hurry,” Mr. Korkutovic said. “Some mothers left children behind because they could not carry them.”
Mr. Korkutovic said he also saw the Serbs kill about 15 civilians in the village of Velici.
“Some people were caught trying to escape,” he said, adding that other Muslims were pulled from their homes and killed. “They did not take anyone away. They killed them and left them.”