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Bosnia and Herzegovina: Worrying surge in returnee deaths

Briefing notes

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Worrying surge in returnee deaths

14 March 2003

Over the past two weeks, eight people have been killed and one wounded in a string of incidents involving people returning to their pre-war homes in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The series of incidents, described by UNHCR officials as the worst in years, began March 1 when an elderly Bosniak man was killed and another was wounded by a booby trap as the two men tried to repair their home in Croat-controlled west Mostar. The same day, an ethnic Serb returnee to a village outside Mostar was wounded by a booby trap hidden under a sack of grain.

On March 10, an entire family of five was killed by a landmine in a field near their home in northern Bosnia, in one of the worst such incidents since the war ended in 1995. Two days later, two brothers aged seven and three were killed while playing with a hand grenade they found in a barn.

While the booby trap incidents clearly involved foul play, the landmine deaths were caused by a device presumably laid during the war. Even though different in nature, the incidents illustrate the dangers people returning to their homes still face in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Since the Dayton Peace Agreement ended the war in Bosnia in the fall of 1995, nearly 1 million people have gone back to the their homes - almost half of those uprooted by the three-year conflict. More than 390,000 of them have gone to areas controlled by their former foes.