Serbia PM attacked at Srebrenica ceremony

  • 12/07/2015

By Calin Neacsu, Rusmir Smajilhodzic

An angry crowd hurling stones and plastic bottles has forced Serbia's premier to flee a ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre of some 8000 Muslims in Bosnia, Europe's worst atrocity since World War II.

Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic had on Saturday just laid a flower at a monument for the Bosnian Muslim men and boys killed and buried there when the crowd started chanting "Allahu Akbar" (God Is Great) and throwing stones.

Vucic ran for cover shielded with umbrellas by his bodyguards who were hit by the hail of stones as some in the crowd shouted insults at the Serbian leader.

Vucic, whose country backed Bosnian Serbs during and after the 1990s inter-ethnic war in Bosnia, was among numerous dignitaries, including former US president Bill Clinton, and tens of thousands of people attending the commemoration in the eastern Bosnian town.

The prayers of an imam finally calmed the irate people in the crowd of mourners as their attention turned to the burial of newly identified massacre victims.

Bosnia's presidency strongly condemned the stone-throwing incident, saying Vucic had come to the town in the "spirit of reconciliation and intending to pay respect to the victims". Srebrenica Mayor Camil Durakovic added that the attack was "the work of sick minds who abused this solemn event."

Serbia for its part described the incident as an "assassination attempt".

"It is an attack not only against Vucic but against all of Serbia and its policy of peace and regional cooperation," Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said in a statement.

Vucic later returned to Belgrade where he told reporters that although a stone hit him in the mouth he was not hurt, but his glasses were broken in the attack.

"I regret that some did not recognise our sincere intention to build a sincere friendship between Serbs and Bosniaks (Muslims)," he said, adding: "My hand remains outstretched (to Bosnian Muslims) and I will continue with my policy of reconciliation" between the two Balkan nations.

Vucic had earlier condemned the "monstrous crime" in Srebrenica, where some 8000 Muslim males were murdered by Bosnian Serb forces who had captured Srebrenica in July 1995, near the end of Bosnia's war.

Serbian and Bosnian Serb politicians have long denied the extent of the killing in Srebrenica, although two international tribunals have described the bloodshed as genocide - a massive killing not seen since the German Nazi regime and its concentration camps during World War II.

On Saturday, the remains of 136 newly identified victims were laid to rest alongside more than 6000 others already buried at a memorial centre just outside the town of Srebrenica.

Although the atrocity occurred 20 years ago, debate continues to rage over its description as genocide.

Earlier this week Western powers clashed with Russia on the topic when Moscow - after lobbying by Serbia and Bosnian Serbs - vetoed a draft UN resolution submitted by Britain that called for the Security Council to recognise the mass killing as genocide.