Arrests made in Balkan war massacre

Published 7:25 am Friday, December 5, 2014

PRIJEPOLJE, Serbia — Atifa Memovic last saw her husband two decades ago, but she remembers it as if it were yesterday. It was snowing, and Fikret, a railway worker, was wearing a jeans jacket with winter lining, a gray sweater over a checkered shirt, and on his wrist a Seiko watch. He kissed her and promised to be back on the afternoon train.

He never made it.

On Friday, Serbia and Bosnia carried out a pre-dawn sweep of arrests in the massacre in which Fikret and 18 others were snatched off a train at the height of the Balkans conflict. The Associated Press obtained exclusive investigative documents showing how the two countries — bitter wartime enemies — worked together to crack the case of the Strpci massacre of Feb. 27, 1993, which has come to symbolize a culture of impunity that still shields death squads and their masters today.

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The raids captured 15 suspects — five in Serbia and 10 in Bosnia — including the brother of a jailed warlord, ex-militia members and a former Bosnian Serb general who commanded the military in the area.

“We are now on the path to solve the murder that has been hidden for more than 20 years,” said Serbian war crimes prosecutor Bruno Vekaric. “We have to do it for the innocent victims.”

Bosnian State Prosecutor Goran Salihovic praised the cooperation between the two countries, saying “this message is very important: criminals have nowhere to hide and they cannot evade justice.”

There was no comment from the jailed suspects or from their lawyers.

“I’m really happy that those monsters are finally behind bars,” said Memovic’s daughter, Selma Colovic-Memovic. “Nothing will bring back my father, but let’s now see whether they will get the punishment they deserve.”