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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 March 2006, 11:42 GMT
Sarajevo massacre survivor speaks
Ten years after the end of the siege of Sarajevo, during which the Bosnian capital endured almost four years of continuous shelling and sniper attacks, the BBC's Neil Arun finds out how life has changed for survivors.

Market trader Esad Pozder
Esad Pozder is concerned about the future of Sarajevo
Cabbages saved Esad Pozder's life. The 65-year-old trader had ducked behind his stall to retrieve some of the vegetables when a mortar sailed into Sarajevo's open-air marketplace.

The explosion killed the friend who had asked Esad for the cabbages.

It killed Esad's sister, who ran a stall selling trinkets, and more than 60 other people - casualties of the single biggest atrocity during the siege of Sarajevo, which ended 10 years ago.

"I couldn't hear anything after the blast," Esad says. "But I saw it all - the dead, the injured, their limbs and organs scattered everywhere.

"We rushed the injured to hospital, packed into cars and vans. In the frenzy, we picked up whatever we could find - not just people but parts of people too."


Above boxes of the fresh fruit he still sells from the Markale market, Esad's hands rise and fall, animating the moment in February 1994 when "a river of blood ran through the streets".

Woman injured in Sarajevo market attack in 1994
The market bombing was the single biggest atrocity during the siege
He points to the mountains, from where the shell was fired and to the sky, from which the mortar fell - silently, he says, without warning.

Nearby stall-holders, none of whom witnessed the attack, pause to hear a story they have probably heard many times before.

A young man interrupts: "Esad is the luckiest fellow alive. He will outlive us all. Even when he dies, the earth will reject his body."

Esad smiles and answers, somewhat mysteriously: "Dedo is my nickname. It means 'grandpa'. Ever since I was a little boy, people have called me grandpa."

He clearly relishes his status as the elder statesman of the Markale market - the last surviving stallholder who remembers the mortar attack.

"The people around me have changed," Esad says, "but the atmosphere here is the same."

Its tables heaving with fresh produce, the market represents an island of colour in a tiny courtyard bracketed on all sides by high, drab buildings.

Whoever fired the mortar 12 years ago had a deadly aim.

'Not civil war'

The 1994 attack on the Markale tore the heart out of Sarajevo, a city already on its knees after a two-year siege.

International outcry at the deaths suggested, at first, that a turning point had arrived in the city's fortunes.

A memorial lists the names of those killed in the attack

But the massacre soon became just another milestone, marking the mid-way point in a siege that carried on for another two years.

The Bosnian Serb forces besieging Sarajevo denied they were behind the Markale attack, and after a brief retreat - prompted by a Nato ultimatum - they resumed their bombardment of the city.

Esad does not blame the Serbs for what happened. He blames their former leader, Slobodan Milosevic, and the late leader of Croatia, Franjo Tudjman.

"You cannot say we had a civil war here," he says. "Otherwise people like Dragan would have joined the Serbs to fight for them."

Dragan is one of Esad's closest friends, a Serb from Sarajevo who lost both his legs in a grenade attack.

"He is a good guy," says Esad. "We went to football games together. Sometimes, he would even come to the mosque with me."

According to Esad, Dragan refused to join the Serb army, choosing instead to stay in the city and run his barbers' shop - a decision that led to his shop being forced to shut.

'Spread the word'

Esad is guarded about the future. Things are tough for the young people nowadays, he says - they don't have jobs.

Moreover, he says, the Sarajevo of old - a city of friendships and football matches - no longer exists.

"The kids these days need to grow up fast and get to grips with the situation. Otherwise, we can look forward to fresh wars every five or six years."

Directly opposite Esad's fruit stall, a simple memorial commemorates the victims of the mortar attack on 5 February 1994.

It lists their names and ends with the injunction: "Remember this day. Spread the word about it."


Country profile: Bosnia-Hercegovina
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