Croatian deputy PM "suspect in killing of Serb civilians"

Croatian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Damir Krsticevic is accused of war crimes committed against Serb civilians near Jajce, in Bosnia.

Source: Tanjug

This has been reported by the Croatian Nacional weekly, the Tanjug agency said on Tuesday.

The weekly refers to information originating from the Republic Center for Investigation of War Crimes in Banja Luka, in the Serb Republic entity of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The Croatian magazine said it has revealed "previously unknown and covered-up" complaints against Krsticevic.

The war crimes in question were committed on September 13, 1995 in the village of Bravnice, near the town of Jajce, during Operation Mistral - an offensive carried out by the Croatian Army and the Croatian Defense Council (HVO).

"After members of the Croatian Army attacked Srbobran (Donji Vakuf) on September 13, 1995, the Serb population in the area, most of them women, children and the elderly, started fleeing toward Jajce and Banja Luka. A column moving from Srbobran towards Jajce was attacked on September 13, 1995 near the village Bravnice, about three kilometers from Jajce, by members of the Croatian Army who were waiting in ambush and proceeded to kill without mercy," writes Nacional.

According to the article, the victims were unarmed civilians from the refugee convoy, taken completely by surprise, and offering no resistance.

"During the attack some were killed immediately, and others wounded. According to witnesses, more than half of all passengers in one bus alone were either killed or wounded by Croatian Army fire. The same bus with the victims was then hit by a Zolya (RPG) and set on fire, with the remaining wounded, and the dead, inside," reads the article.

The weekly is running the Krsticevic story on its front page, under the headline, "Krsticevic charged with massacre of 32 refugees, women and children," noting that these were the previously unknown and covered up criminal complaints against the Croatian deputy prime minister.

The article also quotes Krsticevic, who claims: "I have nothing to do with this, my unit was not there."

This case was launched after the arrest of ten Croatian nationals in Orasje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, who are charged with war crimes committed against Serb civilians.

After the arrests earlier this month, Krsticevic suddenly canceled his planned trip to Sarajevo, as advised security agencies, who, it was stated, could not guarantee his safety.

"Convinced that he was not afraid of getting arrested and that he was clean, Krsticevic was last week in the territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina - but in Medjugorje, where he met with his Bosnian-Herzegovinian counterpart," Nacional said, but added that the case against Krsticevic exists in the Prosecution of Bosnia-Herzegovina and is filed under case number KT-RZ-192/05. Other suspects include Tihomir Blaskic, Stanko Sopota, and Mario Petrovic.

"According to information available to the Center, Krsticevic is suspected as the commander of the 4th Guards Brigade of the Croatian Army from Split, which was engaged in combat activities in the municipality of Jajce at the time the war crime was committed," an unnamed source from the Center for Investigation of War Crimes from Banja Luka was quoted by the weekly.

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