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Bosnians, Believing an Arrest Is Nigh, Storm U.N. Building

April 03, 2001|From Times Wire Services

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Hundreds of survivors of a massacre by Serbs during the Bosnian war stormed the U.N. building here Monday after hearing that a Muslim commander was about to be arrested for trial by the U.N. war crimes tribunal.

A crowd of mostly women stoned security guards and police after breaking down a metal barrier and pounding on the building's glass doors. Security guards pushed them back.

The survivors claimed that the wartime commander of the Srebrenica enclave, Naser Oric, was being held inside. Srebrenica was a supposed U.N. "safe haven" that was overrun by Serbs in 1995. As many as 8,000 Muslims were then killed or disappeared in the bloodiest massacre of the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

It was also Europe's worst wartime atrocity since World War II.

Oric, 34, a former bodyguard of Yugoslavia's jailed former president, Slobodan Milosevic, is considered a hero by Bosnian Muslims for his defense of Srebrenica during the Serbian siege.

But Bosnia's Serbs say he was a war criminal and accuse him of killing dozens of Serbian civilians before the siege of the town.

A U.N. spokesman said that Oric had left the premises earlier Monday after coming in of his own accord.

"Naser Oric was interviewed by investigators of the [International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia] as a part of an ongoing investigation. He came in voluntarily," Douglas Coffman said.

He added that Oric is expected to make a further statement later in the week.

A survivors group had issued a statement Monday saying that he had been arrested.

The protesters chanted, "We want Naser!" and held banners accusing the United Nations of participating in the massacre at Srebrenica. U.N. peacekeepers stationed there at the time failed to stop the Serbian forces from overrunning the enclave.

The investigation involving Oric follows an announcement last week by the U.N. court's chief prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, that new indictments would be issued against Bosnian Muslims.

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