Ex-paramilitaries arrested for notorious Bosnia massacre

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 05, 2014 6:05 AM

By Maja Zuvela

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Fifteen former Serb paramilitary fighters were arrested in dawn raids in Serbia and Bosnia on Friday for the 1993 murder of 20 people, mainly Muslims, seized, tortured and killed as Yugoslavia fell apart in war.

In the 1993 Strpci massacre, one of the most notorious of Yugoslavia's bloody demise, the victims were forced off a train briefly crossing through Bosnia en route from the Serbian capital, Belgrade, to the Montenegrin port of Bar.

Eastern Bosnia was then a stronghold of the Bosnian Serb army and ethnic Serb paramilitaries, fighting Muslim Bosniaks and Catholic Croats to carve out an exclusively Serb statelet.

The victims, mainly Muslims from Serbia and Montenegro, were taken to a school in the nearby town of Visegrad, where they were robbed and tortured before being executed in a burnt-out house. Their bodies were then tossed into the River Drina.

A statement by the Serbian Interior Ministry said the victims comprised 18 Muslims, one ethnic Croat and another unidentified person. Ten people were arrested in Bosnia and five in Serbia in a coordinated morning swoop.

"Among the suspects are high-ranking military officials, as well as direct executioners who took part in the brutal torture and execution of the victims," Bosnia's state prosecutor said in a statement.

The paramilitary group behind the massacre, known as the White Eagles, was led by Milan Lukic, one of only four people to have been sentenced to life imprisonment by the United Nations war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.

Lukic is best known for barricading 70 Bosniak men, women and children in a house in Visegrad before setting it on fire, in what became known as the Pionirska Street massacre. He shot anyone who tried to escape.

(Editing by Matt Robinson and Tom Heneghan)