Fri, Aug 11, 2006 - Page 6 News List

New war footage shows `crimes' against Serbs

BOSNIAN CONFLICT Atif Dudakovic is seen telling his forces to burn homes in a Serbian village during the 1995 Storm offensive

THE GUARDIAN , ZAGREB

A Bosnian war general considered a hero by Bosnian Muslims for withstanding a three-year Serb siege in the 1990s could face war crimes charges after video footage emerged apparently showing him ordering Serb homes to be burned.

Retired general Atif Dudakovic, the officer who led the defense of the Bihac pocket in northwestern Bosnia and survived against the odds under a three-year siege, is seen in new footage telling his men to burn Serbian homes during the 1995 offensive by Croatian and Bosnian forces that routed the Serbs and ended the 1991 to 1995 wars in Croatia and Bosnia.

The footage from the August 1995 Storm offensive that climaxed with the exodus of some 200,000 Serbs from Croatia has reopened old wounds. The tape shows Croatian and Bosnian Muslim forces hounding lines of Serbian refugees and the shooting of a Serb raising his arms in surrender.

The grainy film also claims to show Dudakovic's forces laying waste to a Serbian village on the Croatian-Bosnian border.

The footage, released to coincide with the 11th anniversary of the offensive -- a national holiday in Croatia -- drew outrage in Serbia. Belgrade called for Dudakovic's arrest; Bosnia and Croatia have begun investigating the case.

As Croatia celebrated, Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica branded the Storm offensive a great unpunished crime.

But Croatian leaders reacted angrily to his statement and Croatian commentators say the release of the footage, whether or not authentic, has been timed to suit a political agenda.

The film, apparently shot by Bosnian Muslim paramilitaries, was first shown in Serbia last week. A second passage screened on Tuesday evening showed Dudakovic apparently ordering the destruction of Serbian homes in September 1995. The film shows Serbian village houses burning and the general ordering his men to "burn them all."

Dudakovic denounced the footage as "fabricated and false." He confirmed to a local TV station in Bihac that he had commanded the operation shown, but said the film had been doctored.

Belgrade has forwarded the footage to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague. But under a "completion strategy" that concludes the tribunal by 2010, prosecutors cannot launch new criminal inquiries.

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