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From the archives, April 1993
The BBC's Martin Bell reports from Ahmici
 real 28k

Friday, 14 January, 2000, 15:38 GMT
Flashback: The Ahmici massacre

Ahmici's mosque lay shattered after the massacre

In the village of Ahmici Croats and Muslims once lived, worked, shopped and played side by side.

On 16 April 1993 it was the scene of one of the single most savage examples of ethnic cleansing seen in the Balkans.

Almost every Muslim house had been targeted
On that single morning of terror more than 100 villagers were killed - the exact number will never be known.

A patrol of British UN troops who entered the village shortly afterwards on a tip-off from a group of Bosnian Muslim soldiers uncovered the horrific aftermath.

Bodies littered the village and surrounding fields - even the livestock had not been spared the carnage.

Most of the dead were women, children and old men. All of them were Muslim.

Across the village almost all the 180 Muslim houses were badly damaged or destroyed. The minaret of Ahmici's mosque lay crumpled beside the main road.

New phase of war

Many of the victims were the elderly, women and children
Not a single house in Ahmici's small Croat section had been hit. Some of the few Muslim survivors said that former Croat neighbours had taken part in the killings.

The Ahmici massacre was a dramatic illustration to the outside world of a new phase in the Bosnian conflict and the breakdown in relations between nominally allied Croats and Muslims. It was a side of the conflict that, until then, had been overshadowed by the fight against their common enemy, the Bosnian Serbs.

Witnesses said that the attack had begun at 0530 when mortar rounds were fired on the northern end of the village to prevent Muslim residents fleeing for cover in nearby woods.

Immediately afterwards men in the uniform of Croat militia began systematically working their way through the village, shooting villagers and pouring petrol on their victims, setting them alight while they were still alive.

'Ruthless' destruction

British UN peacekeeping troops uncovered the horror of Ahmici
Inside the cellars of the destroyed houses, groups of charred, twisted bodies bore gruesome testament to their accounts.

Later British Army Colonel Bryan Watters would tell War Crimes Trbunal in the Hague that Ahmici "had been systematically destroyed in a quite ruthless fashion".

He said the attack was thought to have been part of a campaign of terror by Bosnian Croat forces to drive Muslims out of the central Bosnian Lasva River Valley.

"[The massacre] was used, we believe, as an example of what would happen if you did not leave,'' Col. Watters said.

He said that the British soldiers had to move quickly to bury the victims in a mass grave because dogs and other animals had started to feed on the bodies.

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13 Jan 00 |  Europe
UN slams Bosnian leadership
18 Dec 97 |  World
Two years after Dayton
02 Aug 99 |  Europe
Nato grabs war crimes suspect

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