war_crimes - 92339 - 08.02.2015 : Ratko Obrenović Detroit, USA - (0)
Attack on RS Army Military Convoy In Zepa Canyon on Jun 04, 1992 (2)
Ambush in Zepa gorge
On June 4, 1992 in the early morning on that day, one armed RS Army battalion with several military vehicles, under the command of Major Suka Dragan, started from Pale through Han Pijesak towards Zepa. Their task was to deliver food, water, medical and other necessary equipment to VRS members who secured military facility and a TV relay on the Zlovrh hill, in Zepa area.
Many soldiers were murdered after being wounded or captured, when they put away their weapons as a sing of their surrender. Two members of Green Berets shot Serbian soldier Tomic Milenko, son of Diko, born on 01/11/1935 in Novi Karlovci, Indjija Municipality, Republic of Serbia, although he had thrown away his weapon and raised his hands as a sign of surrender, but due to circumstances he stayed alive. Why he was lying down severely wounded, Tomic was listening to cries of other captured Serbian soldiers who begged Muslim to kill them instead of torture the. According to the statement of witnesses of this event, one unidentified helpless severely wounded member of VRS was killed by Lilic Nasko, and the other also unidentified severely wounded VRS member was killed by Kacevic Edhem (other data on the mentioned executors of these crimes are in explanation of criminal charge under items 3 and 4). It was impossible to identify murdered soldiers for their bodies were burnt up after the murder and their corpses were carbonized.
According to obtained evidence and insinuations, the main organizers of the attack on VRS military convoy, of killing the wounded and the captured, and finally of massacring and burning down of corpses were: Cardakovic Ramo, Sahic Hurem, Lilic Nasko, Kacevic Edhem, Palic Avdo, Mujkic Hamed, Jusufovic Rasid, Ridzal Ramiz, Dzebo Rahman, Muratovic Hamed, Cardakovic Emin, Hulovac Benjamin, Omanovic Hasib and Dizdarevic Ago (other data on these persons are stated in the explanation of the charge). They have, contrary to regulations of the Geneva Convention on Treatment of War Prisoners from 12/08/1949, ordered murdering and murdered helpless wounded and captured soldiers, committed sacrileges and burnt their corpses, for what there is photo documentation under Nos. 1-13 and reports of pathologist. In most of the cases it was impossible for experts to determine the cause of death and even to identify 9 bodies, which were greatly damaged by burning.
During the operational research on this crime against wounded and captured VRS soldiers, military medical facility and on the breach of the agreement of the cooperation and maintenance of Zlovrh relay near Zepa, a number of witnesses were heard, photo documents of burnt and exhumed bodies of young soldiers and other medical documentation obtained and all that is included in the charge. Among all testimonies, it is important to look into the testimony given by Lilic Smail, son of Idriz, born in 1949 in Godenje, Han Pijesak Municipality, who was a active member of Moslem military formation that attacked the convoy as well as the testimony of Todorovic Milorad, son of Borisa, born in 1954 in Praca, Pale Municipality, who experienced golgotha of this VRS battalion.
In his testimony, Lilic Smail stated: "In the beginning of May 1992, I started to Han Pijesak together with the workers from Godenje, Podzeplje and Zepa, to get the salary and we were sent back. Upon my arrival to Godenje, meetings of SDA higher leadership were held. A TO unit for the area of Godenje, Podzeplje and other Moslem villages from Han Pijesak Municipality was formed at the beginning. The main person in that HQ was Cardakovic Ramo and Sahic Hurem and Hasanovic Salih were also members of the HQ. Weapons for that unit were obtained earlier through Mujkic Himza, President of SDA for Han Pijesak. Each person who received weapons had to pay for it, some of them even 800 DM. At that time there were no actions, but only guards were held. Some time during May 1992, Palic Avdo was appointed as a TO unit Commander and Cardakovic Ramo as TO Regional HQ Commander, covering the area of Zepa and Han Pijesak. Squad Commander for Godenje and Podzeplje area was Palic Avdo, and for Zepa area it was Beno Kulovac. The HQ was moved to Zepa. At the same time, a unit of militia commanded by Sahic Hurem was formed. Osmanovic Hasib from Zepa was also active in leadership.
Then the oath was signed and all conscripts were obliged to do it, so I did it too. Then I was sent to work, and I had to do physical labor. At that time the unit in our area had two snipers carried by Kamenica Hamza and Cardakovic Emin. Ridzail Ramiz, Dzebo Rahman, Muratovic Hamed and Lilic Nasko were distinguished for their extremism.
Sometime in the beginning of June, Zepa Squad blocked Zlovrh where JNA was placed. In the morning, a courier from Srebrenica came to the HQ in Godenje where Cardakovic Ramo was, and he said that an army convoy of vehicles and tanks was going down the road towards Zepa. I know that Ramo has said several times to let the convoy through and not prevent their free passing. Ramo ordered everybody to evacuate their respective families into shelters and that was done. Army convoy came from Stoborani towards Godenja, some time before noon. There were around 30 vehicles, several tanks, trucks, cars and busses. The Army passed through villages peacefully - they laughed and told us not to run away and threw us some cigarettes. From Godenje, the convoy went towards Brloznik. After the convoy left, Cardakovic Ramo came and ordered me to cut down three trees, with a power saw, over the road in order to block the road, down which the convoy went. In Secerov Lager I found Lilic Sejo on the road. He was cutting down the trees but he did not know how to put them over the road, so I took the power saw from him and cut down three trees over the road. In my opinion, the aim of that roadblock was to prevent the convoy from turning back as well as to prevent any possible help to them. After I finished with that, I went back to my wife and my children. A heavy shooting could be heard at that time. Standing next to the stable, I was watching the fight between the army and people from ambush.
The ambush was set up in Luke, on the crossroads for Godenje, Purtici and Han Pijesak and the convoy were attacked when some vehicles were already across the wooden bridge. Commander of the ambush was Mujkic Hamed with his soldiers from Brleznik. Later on, a unit from Podzeplje, commanded by Jusupovic Resid, came to help. The fight did not last for a long time and the convoy went on towards Luke, without any major stopping. The convoy was shot at while passing through. The convoy was moving down the road in front of the house of Mujkic Himzo, when I saw Cardakovic Ramo and Sahic Hurem together with soldiers from Godenje, Tobarani and other villages, at least 150 of them getting involved in the fight attacking the convoy from direction of Grobici and along the river. The hardest fight was in Kulevkina Ograda where the convoy was stopped and the road blocked on both sides. That is the place where quarry is, at the border of Han Pijesak and Rogatica municipalities, before Berak village. The attack was done from all sides, because that spot is very convenient for ambushing, being placed in a gorge.
Zepa Squad commanded by Kunovac Beno, was attacking from direction of Berak, and our Squad, commanded by Palic Avdo, from the opposite direction. From direction of Radava, the attack was done by the Squad commanded by Mujkic Hamed and from direction of Godenje by the Squad commanded by Cardakovic Ramo and Sahic Hurem. People from Podzeplje, Plana and Krivaca attacked together with people from Brloznik. The struggle lasted till 20,30 hrs when it was finished with the total defeat of the army in convoy. I have heard that during this struggle Sarija Nuhanovic, from Brloznik, set a car tire on fire and threw it among army vehicles, what caused vehicles in convoy to burn. I do not know exactly what was happening during the fight, because at that time I was in the cave, bellow the house of Hamed Smajic. I have heard later that especially active in that fight were Hakic Hasan, who was carrying a machine gun M-53, Muratovic Hamid, Curic Zejmil and Dizdarevic Ago.
In the evening I was in Godenje village and saw 31 prisoners brought to a school. They were brought by the unit commanded by Sahic Hurem and Cardakovic Ramo. Several prisoners were wounded, one of them severely, who was brought in a tent fly and died the next morning. The prisoners were placed in a small room in school, into which even 10 of them would be hardly placed, so I don't know how 30 of them were managed inside. The wounded were taken care of by a male nurse Dzibo Himza. After that I went home. Bodies of dead soldiers and burnt down vehicles remained on the spot. A great amount of weapons and ammunition was seized on that occasion. I know that two vehicles were also seized- ambulance was driven by Curic Zejmil and a truck by Kamenica Hamza.
Next morning, about 20 of us who were there taken to work, under command of Dzebo Musan were sent to the spot. Every one, who had a gun, took it with him. I did not have any weapons, so I tool nothing. I was together with Lilic Himzo, Lilic Ahmed and Lilic Abid. When we came to the spot, we met Lilic Nasko and around 50 people from Brloznik. It was a complete chaos - many corpses and many burnt and carbonized bodies. We searched the terrain looking for weapons, ammunition and other equipment. I saw one wounded soldier who was standing with his arm against the stable wall. I walked beside him and 10-15 minutes later I heard a shot and saw that the wounded soldier was killed. Later, I heard that Kacevic, whose first name I don't know, killed him. That Kacevic person is young, around 20 years old, blond, from Purtici. His brother is Kacevic Hamed who worked in SIP "Planinsko".
I found the other wounded soldier on the road, who was all covered in blood. While I was passing by him, he asked me to get his cigarettes out of his pocket what I did. I took already open package of cigarettes from his pocket together with the lighter, and then took out one cigarette, lit it up, and gave it to him. He told me to take one cigarette as well, and later he gave me remaining cigarettes and told me "Take it, I won't need it anymore". Then I was called by Curic Zejmil and as I was going towards him, I heard a gun shot and it was obvious who did it - Lilic Nasko, who shot him in the chest from semi-automatic rifle. I immediately approached the soldier and I saw him dead with the half of the cigarette still between his fingers. After the weapons and equipment were collected, we returned to the village.
On the same day, as my wife, father and sister-in-law told me, five soldiers with weapons running away from the spot passed by the cave they were in. The soldiers asked them for the shortest way to the nearest Serbian village and they gave one chocolate to each of the children (7 of them). My sister-in-law showed them the way to Mislove. Later, I heard that they took the road to Berovac and one of them got killed there, but the others made it. Two our soldiers - Nurko Brgulja and Jusuf Dumenjic got killed in Berovac on that occasion.
None of our soldiers got killed during the attack on the convoy but some of them were wounded. After the action, blocked soldiers in Zlovrh surrendered to the Zepa unit and I know that they were released later and they came through Godenje and Stobran to Jelovce.
After 2-3 days, the attack of Serbian army followed and they managed to reach the spot of ambush where the soldiers from convoy got killed. There was no stronger resistance of our soldiers. During that attack, a shop was shelled and the prisoners from the school escaped. Serbian army took all the bodies from the spot. Later, Cardakovic Ramo used to say that it had been a mistake to attack the convoy and that they shouldn't have done it.
Afterwards, the Squad was named "4th June", after the event."
The statement of Lilic who was the attacker corresponds pretty much to the statement of Todorovic who was the defender, who stated:
"In the early morning on 04/06/1992, my company, to which I belonged as a soldier of Republic of Srpska, started to Zlovrh in Zepa area, in order to deliver food, medical and other equipment to VRS soldiers who were securing the transmitter. Before we started, Battalion Commander Major Suka informed us that he had been in that area during previous days and that he agreed with the villagers passing of our convoy, so he expected no problems. The convoy was escorted by one tank, two transporters and one anti-aircraft canon, in any case. Arriving to Jelovci, Han Pijesak Municipality, we found first roadblocks made of tree logs and it wasn't clear to me if they were
put by our army or Moslems from this area. After we passed those first roadblocks, we went through first Moslem village before the canyon and as we saw no villagers, we proceeded towards Zlovrh. On stiff cliffs on both sides of the canyon, I noticed bunkers and parapets but I saw no people in them. Somewhere in that direction I saw two young man and one woman who greeted us while we passed along and soon we came to a village with a Mosque, where we took the turn for Zlovrh. After we passed the village in which we saw a number of men and women hurrying towards the wood, we reached up to a bridge that was destroyed. We got off, intending to mend the bridge and while doing so, Moslems from that area attacked us from infantry weapons without any warning. We got sheltered and responded to their fire, and after the bridge was mended and the fire ceased, we got into the vehicles and moved on. There we got first wounding of our men. After we crossed the river, we came to a ravine between two hills where the Moslems heavily attacked us from all sides. And we had to get off, find shelters around vehicles and respond to the fire. There was panic and mess because many of my comrades were wounded and some of them got killed. Moslems shot the drivers first, so new drivers had to replace them and move on, and some vehicles had to be moved off the road because they were heavily damaged. After we passed through the ravine, we found ourselves in a plain where majority of my comrades got killed and we fought Moslem from that area for a long time. The convoy was cut off because some vehicles remained damaged. I was at the end of the first half of the convoy so we managed to go through the plain and as we moved forward, we kept finding barricades that we removed. In front of us we heard Moslems cutting down trees with power saws making barricades for us. They planned and prepared that earlier, by cutting into them, and as we were approaching, those trees were pulled down. It was not long before we came to a huge barricade, made of tree logs that was not possible to remove even with a power saw, so we tried to remove it with a tank and we failed. The tank got off the road and got stuck, so we couldn't move on. Commander Major Suka took around 20 people and went towards Zlovrh that was allegedly not far away, trying to get through and get in touch with the Command in Pale, since our radio as damaged, in order to ask for help and consult for further actions. After some time, Suka and his people came, carrying one dead soldier and told us that one soldier remained there, for they could not take him out. He also told us that he did not manage to get through to Zlovrh because he ran into their bunkers, where Moslems attacked them with infantry weapons. There were no armed conflicts in that area at that time and regarding the agreement with Major Suka, we were surprised by perfidious attack. If we were to expect it, we would go in different formation and not as many of us would get killed. We spent the night between Thursday and Friday there and it was heavily raining all night long. We put the wounded under the vehicles and
into transporters and the dead on trucks while we took the position around the vehicles and kept guarding as much as possible.
And they kept attacking us on that spot. Taking into account the terrain and stiff cliffs on both sides, Moslems kept throwing tree logs and big rocks on us and our vehicles, so many vehicles got damaged and some people injured. During the next day, Moslems kept attacking us from infantry weapons and we managed to establish a connection with our Command in Pale and they told us that the help was on the way. During that first night, Mico Tomic managed to come to us from last cut-off part of the convoy and he told us that all people from that part of the convoy were killed and burnt up, and that he managed to escape. However, not all the people from that part were killed, some of them were captured and later released by our unit that came to rescue. On 06/06/1992 (Saturday morning) our rescue team came from the direction of Han Pijesak. They managed to get through only to place where the convoy was cut off and where the other part of the convoy remained, so Major Suka told us that we had to get through to them with the rest of the vehicles. We put the wounded into transporters and the dead on the vehicles and we did as we were told. While going back we found barricades again that were by Moslems in the meantime. As we reached the river, we found the bridge destroyed again, so we had to mend it again. Moslems kept shooting on us from the nearby cliffs. During that attack, three young men who came to help us got killed and I don't know if anybody was wounded. After we crossed the river, we managed to reach free area around Han Pijesak and in the afternoon of that day a small group of us who survived arrived at Pale.
I wish to emphasize that upon our arrival to the place where we met the rescue team, we saw a horrible scene - our comrades lying dead on and about the road, many corpses carbonized for they were wet with fuel and burnt up. We collected those bodies, so that none either dead or wounded who was not far from the road, remained, except for one part of those who got lost and remained."
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