4th Dec 2023

Bosniak leader pays tribute to Serb victims

  • Bosniak leader Bakir Izetbegovic said he should have visited the massacre site of Kazani sooner. (Photo: Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Bosniak leader Bakir Izetbegovic, one of Bosnia's three heads of state, has paid tribute to civilians murdered by Muslims during the Bosnian war in 1993.

Izetbegovic put a wreath of flowers by the massacre site, Kazani, a ravine in the hills outside Sarajevo on Monday (13 June).

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"I feel I have a debt [towards the victims]," said Izetbegovic, who serves as one of three members of Bosnia's rotating presidency.

He was accompanied by other Muslim leaders, including prime minister Denis Zvizdic. It was the first time that senior Muslim officials visited the massacre site of Kazani.

More than 100,000 people were killed in the Bosnian war of 1992-1995. The capital, Sarajevo, was held under siege by Bosnian Serb forces for more than three years. More than 10,000 people died because of Serbian shelling and sniper fire.

But Bosniak paramilitary groups also killed Serb civilians, a fact that many Bosniak Muslims for years failed to acknowledge.

Twenty-nine bodies have been found at Kazani so far. Many of them were not possible to identify. Most of the rest were Serbs, but investigators also recognised Croats, a Ukrainian couple and a Bosniak.

It is possible that more bodies remain in the Kazani pit, as the process of exhumation was halted and never completed.

Izetbegovic’s father, Alija, chaired the presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina at the time of the massacre. He was also in office in 1996 when the Bosnian government gave a war hero’s burial to Musan Topologic, known as Caco, the paramilitary leader who was in charge of the Kazani killings.

Izetbegovic said he should have come to Kazani sooner. He urged the people of Bosnia to unite and report murder locations where people’s bodies still remain, allowing them to finally be buried.

“I am ready to invest special efforts into this,” Izetbegovic said.

He also said he hoped his visit would inspire other Bosnian officials to make similar moves.

Miladin Vidakovic, president of the Serbian Civic Council, hailed the visit as a "brave gesture for Serb people and the families" of the victims.

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