CNN Mission: Peace

Bosnia's hills yield grim answers

June 9, 1996
Web posted at: 6:50 a.m. EDT (1050 GMT)

digging

From Correspondent Jackie Shymanski

LJEZEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (CNN) -- Six months after the signing of the Dayton peace accord, grief outweighs the joy of returning home for the people of Ljezevo.

As U.N. investigators dug up bodies in areas suspected to be sites of mass graves, parents watched and waited to see if the bodies unearthed would be those of their children missing from the war.

Some of the missing were soldiers. Others were simply caught up in the conflict, in the wrong place at the wrong time.

waiters

Mirzet Repuh, offering comfort to a woman whose parents were murdered in the hills of Ljezevo, struggled with his own memories of the slaughters he witnessed in the same hills.

"I was standing here," said Repuh, pointing to a tree. "All 20 of us were lined up. They shot from behind, I saw people start falling. Then I was hit."

A bullet fired in a now-empty courtyard lodged less than an inch from Repuh's heart.

But he survived, and brought Bosnian war crime investigators to the site where the dead were dumped.

'I blacked out'

The grim reality of the Bosnian war has slowly hit the rest of the world as mass graves, reeking of decaying corpses of butchered victims of the gruesome conflict, are discovered across Bosnia.

Some 30,000 people have disappeared during the war in Bosnia. And investigations like the ongoing one in Ljezevo will have to be repeated many times before even a fraction of the dead are accounted for.

Reuph

In the Ljezevo killing fields, investigators expected to find 20 bodies of missing Muslim men and women buried in the unmarked mass grave. They were killed when Bosnian Serbs overran the town four years ago.

"I was lying on my side ...," Repuh recalled. "My head was hidden behind a man's back. I heard the order to continue shooting."

Serb soldiers resumed their killing, and Repuh was hit again.

"I blacked out," he said. "When I came to I saw dead people all around me."

Now all that remain at the site are bones and freshly turned earth.

A father waits

dad

Down the hill from the mass grave site, in the town cemetery, a father remembered and awaited word of his son.

And where he waited, the answer was not long in coming. The earth yielded details of the dead, and Mahmut Fazlic's son, Amir Fazlic, was identified from amongst the corpses.

"I'm relieved because I know my child is here," said Fazlic. "I didn't know for four years."

For the survivors, there is relief in knowing the grieving can begin.

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