West-Moslem row looms over Srebrenica prayer trip
SARAJEVO, Jul 7, 2000 -- (Reuters) A row loomed on Thursday over how many Bosnian Moslems should be allowed to travel to a Serb-held town to mark the fifth anniversary of what is alleged to have been the worst massacre of the 1992-95 civil war.
Representatives of the victims' families said some 5,000 people transported in 100 buses would take part in a religious ceremony at a site near Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia where in the days after July 11, 1995, Serb soldiers separated many Moslem men from their families.
The Serbs say nobody was killed, but the families say more than 10,000 people disappeared. The International Committee of Red Cross puts the number at some 7,300. Remains of 4,000 have been found.
The main organizer of the commemoration, Abdurahman Malkic, told a news conference mourners would ignore a plan drawn up by international officials and Serb police to limit the number of buses to about 15 due to logistical and security concerns.
"The number will definitely be higher," he said.
Local Serb officials said they would do what they could to prevent any incidents but warned it was a risky venture.
Last year there was no trouble when some 250 family members and Moslem officials prayed in Srebrenica for the missing men.
Oleg Milisic, spokesman for international High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch, said the narrow road to Srebrenica would be clogged if just one of the buses broke down, thus preventing ambulances or police cars reaching the site, where parking was limited.
"Temperatures have reached record heights. We have heard little from the organizers about access for ambulances if people suffer from heatstroke."
The town, situated in eastern Bosnia, was captured by the Bosnian Serbs on July 11, 1995 despite being declared a UN "safe area" two years earlier.
UN prosecutors allege that in the following days thousands of the Moslem men were killed by the Serb gunmen.
Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic and army General Ratko Mladic were indicted by the UN war crimes tribunal for the massacre, which the charges said was planned in advance. Both remain at large.