Engels Srebrenica
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The Srebrenica-enclave history

 

About 90 kilometres north east from Sarajevo, you will find a place called Srebrenica. In earlier days this was a quiet little town with rather modern buildings built around a small heart of old houses. It found its reason for existence from the nearby springs such as a health resort and small industry. The industry existed mainly out of a furniture factory, a marble factory and a weaving mill. Before the rupture started, approximately six thousand inhabitants lived here of which the Moslems were in the majority.

 

About four kilometres north of Srebrenica you will find Potocari. The heart of this town is formed by a three forked road with ribbon development to the west. In this small town you could find unaffected industry such as a concrete factory, a mechanical workshop and a battery factory. This side of town also contained a bus station. The Srebrenica-enclave formed itself around Srebrenica and had a fourteen by sixteen kilometres circled shape. Amongst the more important towns as Srebrenica and Potocari, the enclave also contained several small villages. Mountains surrounded the enclave. Huge hills arouse from the north side of which Lisina and Jabuco are the highest. On the eastern side mountain tops rising to a peak of a thousand metres were found which consisted mostly of woods. The southern boundary was formed by a mountainous area with beautiful views.  Mount Kak was part of this scenery. West of the enclave there were steep and untamed mountain ridges with hardly any vegetation. Rough grounds formed the enclave itself. Woods were found here as well as agricultural grounds and orchards.

 

The enclave’s road network was formed by a through road from OP Pappa – a northern observation post which was also called ‘the enclave’s door’ – to OP Echo, south of the enclave. This road ran through Potocari and Srebrenica. To the east of Srebrenica there was a moderate paved road that led past the dumping-ground to OP Romeo. The other roads were either half paved or not paved at all. These roads could only be used in good weather conditions.

 

The enclave board and management worked from within the opstima –the town hall-. The tasks of the obstima are quite similar to a city council. The most important people were the president and the vice-president. The presidential post was more like a representative position. The executional power however lay in the hands of the vice-president. Nearly all managing functions were divided amongst people who had been decorated during the war. The only group that was allowed to be armed were the Moslem police. Approximately 60 policemen actually carried a gun.

 

Until the mid eighties Moslems (60 to 70%) and Bosnian Serves (30 to 40%) lived peacefully next to each other in two separate districts Srebrenica and Bratunac. After Tito’s death all kinds of different political party’s originated. Most political party’s were based on ethnical birth and reflected strong national feelings. The Serves were in the minority in eastern Bosnia and they felt threatened when the Moslem party’s started taking over several local boards. Milosovic took advantage of this situation and begun spreading out his Big-Servian thoughts. This caused a mutually cooled down relationship between the Moslems and Bosnian Serves in which both party’s fell back on the past.

Incidents from the past were stirred up again which caused fierce discussions about right and wrong. In spite of the Slovenian and Croatian war, the Bosnian government still believed they could stay out of the battle. Meanwhile Karadzic, the Bosnian Serve was put forward as leader. Whereupon Karadzic started arming his men with the Serves help. Due to the previous Moslem board’s mainly passive conduct, the only armed Moslems left were the police and a few hunters.

 

Ethnic opposites

In the beginning of April 1992 a military unit appeared ten kilometres north of Srebrenica consisting mainly out of Bosnian Serves.  This unit was well armed, mainly with weapons that came from the previous Yugoslavian army. At the same time several aggressive Servian para-military party’s arrived who started intimidated the Moslems. They tried to disarm the Moslem police and divided the community up into Moslem en Servian areas. Moslems were also more often getting unintentionally picked up. In Srebrenica this was also happening. But the disarming of the police failed here, mainly because the police hid in the mountains. The Yugoslavian people realised that war was irreversible. Many Srebrenica residents left their homes and travelled to Tuzla. Amongst these residents were also nearly all of the local leading politicians and other important public leaders. Apart from the Moslems, a lot of Servian inhabitants also moved out. Some of them with the intention of joining up with the Servian army unit and others because of not wanting to get involved in a war against there neighbours. As happened in Bratunac, a number of Servian inhabitants stayed so they could force their will on the Moslem people who were in the majority.

 

The ultimate and the battle

The Bosnian Serves continued their intimidations. They also gave the Moslems an ultimatum to hand over their weapons. This ultimatum expired at 10 o’clock on April 18th 1992. The next day the first mortar firings took place and were fired off from the Bratunac area aimed at Potocari. Most of the inhabitants had already fled. Also small villages in the near aria were taken under fire. Immediately after the first firing the para-military group ‘Arkonovic’ pulled up from Bratunac, invaded Potocari and started house plunderings. At night they quartered at the profile factory. On Monday April 20, 1992 a group of seventeen armed Moslems led by Maser Oric, attacked the Arkanovic group which caused the death of thirteen Serves and. Also a number of weapons and vehicles were confiscated. The same night three revengeful groups of approximately 50 to 60 Serves pulled up from Bratunac to Potocari. Their only goal was revenge for this defeat. They went looking for Naser Oric, but he and his men had positioned themselves in the mountains with their gained weapons and vehicles. The remaining population of Potocari also fled to avoid revenge actions. The revenge groups satisfied themselves by putting fire to the bus station, the lorry garage and a few houses.  From that moment on Scebrenica was regularly taken under fire. This continued until May 10, 1992.  The local Serves were supported by several para-military groups in their attempt to capture Srebrenica. On a regular basis they plundered the town, often helped by the inhabitant Serves who stayed behind. Because of this more people took refuge in the mountains.

 

The eventual ‘Srebrencia battle’ took place on May 6 and 7, 1992. It was not a huge bombastic military attack, but looked more like an uncontrolled battle between Moslems and Serves which mainly took place in the Turkish Fort area. The Serves had the benefit of firing support from the previous Yugoslavian army (JNA) from the Bratunac and Zalazje area. One of the Servian forces, which was part of the radical Servian Party (SDS) was led by the previous Srebranica judge Goran Zekic. This Goran was one of the most important initiators of the regional ethnical contradictions. On the 8th of May he was present at the funeral of a comrade who died in action which took place on a cemetery near the sports stadium. Three Moslem comrades were instructed by Naser Oric to lay out an ambush. Returning to headquarters Goran Zekic fell into the ambush and was killed. Also one of the ambushers, a seventeen year old Moslem died. The Serves were shocked by the death of Goran Zekci en panicked. They pulled out of Srebrenica and from that day on Srebrenica was totally controlled by the Moslems. But the revenge of the Serves was hideous, in the sporting centre hundreds of Moslems, especially men, were brutally murdered.

 

Expansion of the Moslem area

Nasar Oric decided to take advantage of the Servian confusion by seizing the nearby villages. But before the fighting took place, the Servian village Cimanici signed a loyalty notification and surrendered all their weapons to Nasar. This village was left in peace. Nasar also signed an agreement with two other Moslem battle groups. Their leaders were Hakija Meholic and Zulfo Tursunovic. Zulfo was an ex-prisoner and his power was purely based on the nations fear for the Bosnian Serves army (the BSA). The connection between Naser and Hakija wasn’t very well. They picked quarrels and Naser blamed Hakija for being a coward. But even so, Naser built a territorial defence for Srebrenica with these men. In earlier days Nasar had accomplished a high quality education at the anti-terrorism force during the previous Yugoslavian days. He therefore controlled many useful fighting techniques. Many times he dislocated his troops which confused the Serves highly. He also used the Servian fear for Mujahedin-combats and disguised his men as Mujahedins. In despite of the different points of view, Nasar succeeded in signing agreements with other Moslem combat groups. He assembled his own group with the groups of Zulfo, Hamdija en Hakija into one combat. Due to this he was able to take in more Serves territory in eastern Bosnia. His successful tactic was to attack villages on Servian holidays. Many villages were totally destroyed and many Serves were killed during these attacks. For example, many Serves were killed under the command of Nasar Oric by the united Moslem combats during the attack on the Zalazaje village on July 12, 1992. Nasar almost succeeded to unite the Moslem groups in mid Bosnia. This however failed because the commander of the 2nd corps BiH (the Bosnian Moslem army), the Croatian general Zeljko Knezer, refused to start up an assault from Tuzla.

 

The battle’s turning-point

Due to a tactical fault, Nasar’s successful march came to and end. He neglected to take in Bratunac and therefore missed an opportunity to control an important supply route. Instead he tried to drive the Serves into the Drina at Skelani. This attack succeeded; within a few days time after the attack started, the Moslem fighters stood on the Drina bridge at Skelani. Meanwhile the Bosnian Serves launched a counter attack. Reinforcements gathered from all over Bosnia to take on to accomplish the counter attack. The Servian republic supported the raid with artillery and aeroplanes and the Bosnian Serves were supported by Russian en Hungarian soldiers of fortune. On January 20, 1993, the attack started and succeeded. Mainly due to the use of heavy artillery and a superior force, the Moslems were forced back on all sides suffering heavy casualties. Kamenica was the first loss on the Moslem side, followed by Cerska and Konjevic Polje. The Servian progress also caused a huge refugee flow in the direction of Srebrenica. Eventually the Moslems were forced back into the enclave area and after that Srebrenica was bombed and taken under heavy firings. The firings ceased after the arrival of general Morrilon on May 6, 1993. He asked for international attention through television cameras whilst standing on the Srebrenica post office building for the Moslems who by then were surrounded in the enclave area by the Serves. The United Nations then decided to claim the enclave as safe area and begun demilitarising the area. This event stopped the Serves wiping Srebrenica completely from the map. A Canadian Unprofor-unit was sent out by the United Nations to see to the up living of the established mandate.

 

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