Convoy of Srebrenica victims' remains arrive in massacre site
A convoy carrying the coffins of 136 newly-identified Srebrenica victims arrived Thursday in the Bosnian town where the massacre took place, for their burial on the 20th anniversary, AFP reports.
The victims will be laid to rest at a memorial cemetery on Saturday along with the remains of 6,241 other victims that have already been found and identified. Another 230 victims of the worst massacre in Europe since World War II were buried at other cemeteries.
Several hundred people, including the victims' relatives, attended the departure of the 136 coffins on a truck flanked by police cars that left in the morning from the town of Visoko, near Sarajevo.
Hafiza Tihic, 60, who came to say goodbye to her father Ramiz, said: "I don't know how he was killed, but I remember the moment when he was separated from us."
"I entered a bus and he was put to one side. What did they do to him later? Only they would know," Tihic said, referring to Bosnian Serb forces.
Twenty years ago, in July 1995, nearly 8,000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered by Bosnian Serb forces after they captured Srebrenica. The atrocity occurred near the end of Bosnia's inter-ethnic war that claimed some 100,000 lives.
Pain still fresh
"It is so painful today, like he just died," said Tihic.
Her brother was also killed when ambushed by Bosnian Serb forces in the forests near Srebrenica while fleeing along with thousands of other Muslim men and boys in a bid to reach safety in a territory under Muslim control.
"He was found and buried a few years ago. What has happened in Srebrenica is inconceivable. To have killed such a large number of people... I don't understand," the woman whispered.
Samira Agovic also came to bid farewell to her father of whom "only four bones were found."
Along the way to Srebrenica, as the convoy was passing through Muslim-populated villages, people lined up on both sides of the road, paying tribute by closing their eyes and raising their palms towards the sky as a sign of Muslim prayer, an AFP reporter said.
As the convoy arrived in Srebrenica in early evening, the coffins were placed in front of the memorial, in the warehouse of a factory that 20 years ago served as a base of Dutch UN peacekeepers and where a number of victims had tried but failed to seek refuge.
Only parts of most Srebrenica victims' remains have been found. In many cases their bones had been moved from mass graves to so-called "secondary" graves in an effort to hide the true extent of the massacre.
Agovic, 39, has already buried a brother who was 15 when he was killed. Another brother, aged 22 at the time, was never found.
"I simply cannot understand that it was 20 years ago. I have an impression that it is happening today. Every year, in July, I have the same feeling again."
When the then UN-protected enclave of Srebrenica was captured by Bosnian Serb forces her family did not know where to go.
"We split, men went to the forests, us to Potocari" where the UN base was located.
"'Take care of yourselves' is all what we told each others" before we split up, she said.
Meanwhile in Sarajevo, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Bosnian leaders to work towards a future in which a "genocide" such as the massacre of Muslims 20 years ago would no longer be possible.