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
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
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.
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.