February 14, 1994 Vreme News Digest Agency No 125
The Massacre At Markale Market
by Milos Vasic Research: Dejan Anastasijevic Andrija Janicijevic
The latest and greatest massacre of unarmed civilians in Sarajevo has resulted in the usual, but significantly changed consequences. Threats of a military intervention look more serious and are the result of public outrage; the guilty party is being sought with the usual imaginativeness, but with a lot more energy
Something exploded at Markale market in downtown Sarajevo on Saturday, February 5 at 12:30 a.m., killing 68 people and wounding around 200. It was a quiet day by Sarajevo standards. UN observers recorded that only 200 projectiles had fallen on the city, half the daily average during the 22 months of siege. On the previous day, Friday, February 4, two mortar shells (of a total of 223 that day) hit the suburb of Dobrinja, killing eight and wounding 18 people queuing for humanitarian aid. Most of the victims were women and children. On this occasion the leaders of the Serb Republic in BosniaHerzegovina accused the Bosnian Government of killing its own population in order to fan antiSerbian feelings worldwide. In fact, the first comments claimed that the shelling of Dobrinja was a ``lie,'' and that there had been none. The new UNPROFOR Commander, British General Michael Rose said, however, that his men had determined unequivocally that the mortar had been fired from Serbheld positions. UN personnel claimed that in the two previous cases when Dobrinja had been shelled (a football ground and a queue for water; see box) the responsibility had also lain with the Serb Republic in BH.
Since the previous day had also seen a massacre (which resulted in quite a furor in the world press), the people believed that they could rely on the law of probability, and moved around a bit more freelygoing to the market to buy a little stale food for a lot of money. Markale market which is squeezed in between buildings in the city center was quite crowded at the moment of explosion. Those close to the explosion were blown to pieces, while those further off were seriously injured. No one has denied that the device had a prefragmented casing. The market stalls with their flat metal surfaces and roofs didn't offer much protection. It was later reported that one shell hit a house in the nearby Marshal Tito street at the same time. There were no casualties.
Chaos ensued. The hospitals in Sarajevo were filled to overflowing with wounded people. Rescue teams fought down fainting spells and retching. The survivors cursed the living. Curses against the United Nations, Boutros BoutrosGhali, Bill Clinton and the United States were reported by journalists on the spot. The man in charge of the morgue said that he had never seen a more horrible scene. ``It is difficult to identify the victims and determine the exact number of dead. Many were brought here in pieces.''
From the Sarajevo point of view, the difference lies only in the density: human nature is not given to looking at misery and tragedy from an average figure. It seems less terrible if 68 people die in a month, than all at once. But, statistics are the comfort of the helpless, so we will spend a little time on statistics here.
According to reports drawn up by international observers, during the 700 days of siege, over 300,000 different explosive projectiles (from 20mm gun to 128mm rockets) have hit Sarajevo, adding up to an average of 428.5 various explosives daily. There were days without a hit. There were also days when UN observers gave up counting (after 1,500). Sniper and machinegun fire are not counted here, even though they account for a great number of losses. All this firing, shelling, etc, has resulted in the death of 9,872 peoplemen, women and children, giving an average of 30.4 shells per corpse. There have been 57,097 wounded, adding up to an average of 5.25 shells per one wounded person. Snipers are more efficient and cheaper. Over 10,000 flats have been destroyed including 35,000 offices. The Municipal Hospital in Kosevo has undergone 267 direct hits. And so on to the Library, the Assembly building, monuments, etc.
Sarajevo lies in a valley, and makes an ideal target. On the surrounding hills, there are, at all times, some 400 artillery pieces belonging to the Serb Republic in BH, from 20mm antiaircraft guns to multiple rocket launchers. The dynamics in the shelling of Sarajevo vary. No one can say why some days are ``better'' than others. A certain correlation has been established between the density of shelling and the following parameters: religious holidays (Christian and Muslim), the quantity of alcohol consumed, weekends, the international situation, the contents of TV news programs, and similar details. Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic does not seem certain over his control over his own units: in the spring and summer of 1992, he said several times that his men manning the artillery around Sarajevo were not always well trained so that they sometimes hit civilian targets. After the massacre at Markale market, Karadzic said that the Bosnian Serb army was ``highly disciplined, with a strict command and a daily record was kept of the number of shells fired, so that no one was allowed to fire from our positions without an order.'' Soldiers who have been on the spot, claim that men fire when they feel like it, even letting occasional ``tourists'' (such as the Russian author Eduard Limonov, for example) try their luck.
The July 25, 1993 incident is interesting: on that day 58 mortar shells hit the UNPROFOR headquarters in Sarajevo and destroyed ten armored vehicles, resulting in great material damages. Luckily, there were no victims. Over the next five days Bosnian Serb organs accused the Bosnian army of responsibility for the attack, saying it had been made with the idea of laying the blame on the Serbs, and of winning international sympathy for the Bosnian army. On the sixth day (July 30), Karadzic sent a letter to UN SecretaryGeneral Boutros BoutrosGhali, admitting that his forces were responsible for the attack and that the ``officers suspected of being responsible had been detained.'' Fiftyeight shells is just too many for a potshot.
The days passed and an average of 428.5 shells hit Sarajevo, with an average of 14 dead everyday from shells and snipers or complications (illness, hunger, wounds). It happened several times that a little over the average would die at once, and then these were the big events in Sarajevo. The first event of this kind took place in Vasa Miskin Street on May 27, 1992 at 10:30 a.m.. Two 120mm shells hit a bread queue, the third fell a little further away but did not explode (it has been saved and its serial numbers are known). A depressing situation followed. First General Milan Gvero, still in the uniform of the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA), claimed that no one had fired on Sarajevo that day. Rather confused, and wearing the same uniform, he claimed that evening that the shells were in fact antiinfantry landmines, and that the Bosnians were killing themselves in order to lay the blame on the Serbs. It turned out the next day that the shells in question were mortar shells. Karadzic's propaganda still clings to the same theorywithout proof. Without counting the July 25, 1993 attack on UNPROFOR, a similar thing happens every time a mortar or shell kills ten or more people at once. It is always the Bosnians who are shelling their own people in order to lay the blame with the Serbs. This leads to two logical questions:
1. Who has besieged, and who has been shelling Sarajevo for the past 22 months? On a bad day (May 30, 1993, shelling all day, 24 dead, 170 wounded), Karadzic said in an interview to the Bosnian Serb news agency Srna, that ``the Muslims had organized an offensive against Sarajevo.''
2. When we compare all the cases so far, it turns out that the B H army marksmen are exceptionally good when targeting their own innocent civilians, but hopeless when it comes to destroying Bosnian Serb artillery. The conclusion is somewhat unpleasant: when the UN claim that the shells were fired from positions held by the Bosnian Serb army, then responsibility is deniedno it's not us; when there is no proof where the shells were fired from then, then the unanimous cry isit's the Muslims.
3. (Most important): where is the proof for the rather audacious claim that the Bosnians are systematically killing themselves, out of hatred of the Serbs?
The latest massacre gives some clues as to the answer.
The first reaction after the massacre at Markale: a press conference was called at Pale the very same day (February 5). Karadzic let General Milan Gvero do most of the talking. ``We are absolutely sure that this shell was not fired from our positions,'' said Gvero. ``Of course, we have checked: there was no shelling today, either from artillery or mortars, in the direction of Sarajevo. We have no reports. There is no single reason why this would be in our interest at this momentfrom the political, military, or any other point.'' Gvero recalled that ``such things always happened just before an important meeting, in order to sabotage it.'' Karadzic`s deputy Nikola Koljevic asked journalists: ``Is it a coincidence that this massacre took place on the very day that a meeting was taking place at the airport, five days ahead of the Geneva conference, and exactly one day after yesterday's staged massacre in Dobrinja?''
The following day UNPROFOR announced its onthespot findings. The official report said that the explosion was brought about by a 120 mm mortar projectile fired from the direction northeast. They cannot claim with total certainty who fired it, because the area from which it was fired is divided among Bosnian forces defending the city and the Serbian forces attacking it. The distance was twothree kilometers, said British U.N. General Chris Ritchey, adding that the projectile exploded some 90 cm above the ground (it probably hit a market stall). General Rose said that there was no proof that the Bosnian side was responsible. When it comes to proof, there is no proof which could point decisively to any one side in particular.
The next day brought a whole lot of new theories and explanations, which can be filed into two groups: technical and operational. All take as their point of departure the assumption that the Bosnian Muslims organized and carried out the massacre at Markale market.
1. The main headquarters of the Bosnian Serb army (General Manojlo Milovanovic) claim that apart from the fact that ``there was no shooting from the Serbheld positions,'' these positions ``are not so close, nor do we have such weapons in such a proximity which could result in a massacre of such proportions.'' Gvero adds that according to ``footage,'' ``it is incredible that market stalls remained untouched, and that there were bottles and eggs on some of them.'' The range of 120mm mortaris 9,600 meters. Markale market is within the range of a large part of the Bosnian Serb army deployed around Sarajevo, from the north to the northwest. No one knows which market stalls television cameras shot, and no one knows how many people can be killed by a 120mm mortar if it falls into a crowd. ``We have tested them in all ways except that,'' said an artillery engineer, saying that he doesn't know what would happen if such a mortar hit a crowd. People simply don't know because they have no experience. Theoretically speaking, the fragments of a 120mm mortar shell have a great velocity at the time of explosion; no tests have ever been made to see how many people can be killed (penetrated) by one such fragment (slower projectiles fired from firearms can kill two or three persons).
2. What could have brought about such a massacre? Yugoslav army artillery experts say that it wasn't a howitzer (this is not controversial, see box), and that a 120mm mortar could not have such an effect. They believe that such a large number of victims must the result of at least nine 120mm mortar shells which exploded at the same time. And if that is not the caseand it obviously isn'tthen the possibility that an improvised explosive device exploded at the market is not excluded. ``It is possible that a mortar shell, whose traces can still be seen, exploded at the same time as one or more improvised devices (plastic explosives filled with the fragments of mortars which had exploded earlier) planted on the stalls about the market,'' said Yugoslav army experts. The theory of a planted explosive device has become very popular: articles have been written on all that could have been thought up, on condition that it was all carefully planned beforehand, and the traces later speedily removed. The theory of a planted device branches out in three directions:
A. An antiinfantry shell from the Bugojno arms factory which never went into production. Electric ignition (``click''), 5,000 pellets and narrow angle of explosion (36 degrees). The problem in this case is that the factory in Bugojno was evacuated in the summer of 1990, so that it does not have the equipment to make such a complicated device; another problem is that no pellets were found on the spot.
B. Two 120mm shells planted and activated by remote control. This theory also trips up on material proof, and it cancels out the previous one (according to which an explosion of such strength would require at least nine such shells).
C. The Lazanski theory (``Politika,'' February 9): the US nuclear explosive device W54 of 0.01 KT strength can destroy a unit of soldiers (50 men), so that ``something stronger than a portable ABomb'' exploded at Markale market. But, 0.01 KT is equal to 10 tons of TNT, or one full wagon. In that case, the center of Sarajevo would have been wiped off the face of the earth.
3. The key moment was the TV debate carried by RTS and TV Pale on Tuesday, February 8 at 20:40. All the participants in the debate emphasized the ``staging'' and ``production'' (the two most frequently used terms in the media exploitation of the tragedy). Karadzic spoke of a ``big, clumsy fraud.'' He said: ``several people have been wounded, the rest is just staged and a fraud,'' in order to ``impress the world.'' Karadzic said that ``the corpses of people who had died earlier had been used, and also mannequins and plastic dolls.'' A day later, in his letter to US President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin, Karadzic put forth his four key arguments: first, there were no goods at the market, nor people (only ``a few''); secondly, it was ``a very funny mortar,'' because no one heard the whistle; thirdly, ``there is the trace of only one mortar, which could not have come from that angle, and didn't, because there was no sound. The mortar was fired from a nearby building. The explosion was built up with the addition of explosive devices''; fourthly, ``It was clear on TV, that corpses several hours old had been used. The `corpses' included several plastic dolls and tailor's dummies.''
However, the main problem with this particular TV program lies in the fact that the participants spent hours trying to prove that a mortar shell could not have produced such a devastating result. It was then that Tanjug news agency reported that it had learned that UNPROFOR had a secret report which claims that the Muslims fired the shell. Everybody sighed with relief and agreed quickly that it must have been a shell and parted happily.
Over the next few days the Serbian press continued with the theory of a planted explosive device, naming the culprits, complicating matters with details of the necessary preparations and the ``speedily removed evidence.'' This led to the ``secret Hezbollah plan'' story, with the ``explosive in a sack in one of the stalls,'' etc. It all resembles a folk tale in which two women are up before the judge. One accuses the other of having borrowed a good pot and returning it with a hole in it. The accused gives three reasons why this is not so: first, the pot had a hole in it when she borrowed it, second, she returned a pot without a hole, and third, she never even borrowed the pot. When Yugoslav Foreign Minister Vladislav Jovanovic says that Serbia has ``lost the media war,'' he must have been thinking of the following: a political stand cannot be defended with ten contradictory theories at the same time. If one claims that the Bosnians have shelled themselves, then one approach must be adopted and stuck to, all the more so if the theory relies on cliches of the typeMuslims are wellknown for their ``Eastern'' (quote Karadzic) deviousness.
The only dissenting voice in the chorus was that of Bosnian Serb Assembly Speaker Momcilo Krajisnik who expressed doubts and the belief that a ``third party'' was involvednot the Serbs, nor the Bosnians, but a party interested in showing the necessity of a military intervention by the West. This theory has been supported by sources close to the Yugoslav army, which indicates cautiously, that the Markale market tragedy is linked to Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's visit to Sarajevo.
All these theories have a serious flaw: they offer no evidence, but only manage to multiply the number of assumptions as to the incredible complexity of the operation that the Bosnians used to deny their responsibility. It is hard to believe that all these theories based on Jovanovic's theory of ``the world powers' revengeful anger because they have been outplayed in the Balkans''will leave much of an impression on these same ``powerbrokers.'' The way things stand right now, Karadzic's nervousness does not seem to be unfounded. The mortar shell that fell on Markale market could be the one that tips the scales, the straw that breaks the camel`s back.
Exchange of Fire
The following data (taken from agency reports) refer to the number of times that fire has been exchanged in Sarajevo before and after Saturday's massacre. The number of artillery shots fired by both sides is given next to the date.
Bosnian Serb army BH army
31 January 80 1 1 February 170 10 2 February 170 10 3 February 395 24 4 February 223 0 5 February 200 0 6 February 90 0
A total of 9,662 civilians have been killed, while some 56,000 have been wounded in Sarajevo from April 1992 to December 31, 1993. During the same period, 141,000 people were killed and around 160,000 wounded in the whole of BH.
The following are some of the most tragic incidents with the greatest number of civilian casualties in Sarajevo from the start of the war:
* Vasa Miskin Street, a bread queue, May 27, 1992: 20 dead, 70 wounded (two 120mm mortar shells). * Marshall Tito Street, June 22, 1992: 8 dead, 65 wounded (a shell). * Hotel ``Evropa,'' August 18, 1992: 5 dead, 8 wounded refugees (a shell). * Dobrinja, a football ground, June 1, 1993: 15 dead, 60 wounded (two mortar shells). * Dobrinja, a water queue, August 12, 1993: 12 dead, 15 wounded (two 82mm mortar shells). * Alipasino polje, the School ``Prvi maj,'' November 9, 1993: 4 children and one teacher killed, 20 pupils wounded (mortar shell). * Stara pivara, a water queue, January 15, 1994: 8 dead, 19 wounded (120mm mortar). * Alipasino polje, January 22, 1994: 6 dead children, several wounded while playing in the snow (mortar shell). * Dobrinja, queue waiting for humanitarian aid, February 4, 1994: 9 dead, 20 wounded (three mortar shells).
The Poor Man's Artillery
A mortar is the cheapest means of firing an explosive projectile at a target. If the matter concerns small distances and targets which are not visible, this is the most precise method, and sometimes the only one. A mortar shell has a hyperbolic curve, so that targets hidden by physical barriers can be fired at. The caliber usually used are of 60mm, 82mm and 120mm, but there are bigger ones too. Mortars date back to the 1905 RussoJapanese war. Their use spread quickly after World War One. In World War Two, 35% of all losses in men were due to mortar shells. In the Korean and Vietnamese wars they accounted for over 50% losses. In the Balkan wars from 1991, this percentage is much higher (some estimates claim as much as 75%). The mortar is the main artillery weapon in the Balkans. The domestic military industry produced tens of thousands of them. On leaving BH in May 1992, the former Yugoslav People's Army left behind 5,000 mortars of 120mm caliber (it had over 16,000).
There are two basic domestic 120mm modelsthe light model and the heavy one. They require light dispersing mortar shells (12.2 kg) and heavy (15.5 kg) and mortar shells with an auxiliary rocket motor (13.65 kg). Their range varies from 2009,600 meters (with the auxiliary motor). The heavier mortar shell is prefragmented and disperses with an average of 1,4002,000 fragments weighing over one gram, ``successfully covering'' a room with a radius of 30 meters (or destroying 50% of the manpower). The larger fragments are lethal within a radius of 150 meters. When dealing with open spaces, the mortar is much more efficient than artillery of the same caliber, while a hard ground surface only enhances its effect. When speaking of precision, a mortar is 15 times more precise than a howitzer of the same caliber, and it comes eight times cheaper.