Landmine, booby traps kill eight Bosnian returnees in a fortnight
SARAJEVO, March 14 (UNHCR) - In a stark reminder of the deadly legacy of war, eight people have been killed by a landmine and booby traps after returning to their homes in Bosnia and Herzegovina. UN refugee agency officials have described the series of incidents as the worst in years.
The incidents began on March 1, when an elderly Bosniak man was killed by a booby-trapped hand grenade as he was trying to repair his home in the Croat-controlled western part of the Herzegovina city, Mostar. The man's son was seriously injured in the explosion.
Just hours later, a similar explosive device injured a Serb man in a house in Bacovici, a village outside Mostar. Local authorities said they were investigating the incidents.
Ten days after the Mostar incident, an entire family of five was wiped out by a mine explosion as they tried to clear farming land near their home in the hamlet of Skuljevici in northern Bosnia. UNHCR officials described the incident as one of the deadliest single mine strikes since the war in Bosnia ended in 1995.
Two days later in the same area of the country, two brothers - aged seven and three - were killed by a hand grenade they had found in a barn.
While the booby trap incidents clearly involved foul play, the mine deaths were caused by a device presumably planted during the war in what then was a heavily-mined frontline area. UNHCR officials in Bosnia said that even though different in nature, all the incidents show that even now, more than seven years after the war, those returning to their homes still face many dangers.
"These tragic incidents are a stark reminder of the deadly legacy of war that keeps killing and maiming those who have gathered the courage to return to their pre-war homes," said Udo Janz, UNHCR's top official in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He said that since 1995, 382 people have been killed by mine explosions and close to 1,000 injured.
Janz added that despite many odds, continued physical dangers and bureaucratic red tape, the uprooted people of Bosnia and Herzegovina continue to go back in a remarkable show of courage and determination.
Since the Dayton Peace Agreement ended the war in Bosnia in the fall of 1995, nearly one million people - almost half of those uprooted by the three-year-long conflict - have gone back to their homes. More than 390,000 of them have gone to areas controlled by their former foes, in what many officials see as a partial reversal of the infamous policy of "ethnic cleansing", the grim feature of the Balkan wars of the 1990s.