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BANJALUKA, JULY 3 /SRNA/ - The Republika Srpska Government’s Committee fostering the traditions of liberation wars is organiSing the marking of the 78th anniversary of the Battle of Kozara on Saturday in Mrakovica, while the suffering of approximately 3,500 Serbs in Podrinje and Birač, one of the greatest sufferings of the Serb people in recent defensive-patriotic war, will be marked on Sunday, July 5.


Minister of Labour, War Veterans and Disabled Persons Protection of Republika Srpska, Duško Milunović, told the press in Banjaluka that the Battle of Kozara was also known as the Kozara Epic.

"It would certainly be more appropriate to call it the great suffering of the Serb people in 1942 during the Second World War. This is the area where one of the greatest genocides in the Second World War was committed," said Milunović, who is a chairman of the parliamentary Committee fostering traditions of liberation wars.

He mentioned data according to which about 3,500 partisans, 500 wounded and about 80,000 civilian refugees came under the siege on Kozara on June 12, 1942, with outnumbered enemies, 15,000 members of German forces, and about 21,000 Ustashas and Home Guard, while the Hungarian artillery from the Sava operated deep in the territory.

"It was a heroic battle and the siege was broken in the night between July 3 and 4. Some civilians managed to get out, around 10,000 people, while everyone else had to retreat deeper into Mount Kozara. Enemy units were searching terrain for days and according to their data, about 68,000 people were taken to the concentration camps," said Milunović.

He added that more than 140 villages were completely destroyed.

Milunović pointed out that most of these civilians were killed in Ustasha death camps, while the survivors were those who, as he said, were lucky enough to be taken to labour camps in Germany, citing Ustasha data that 12,000 out of the 23,858 children listed in the camps, were from Kozara.

"No fascist country, although they committed terrible crimes against civilians, had camps for children. Only the NDH had it," Milunović emphasized.

The programme of commemoration provides for the memorial service to be held at the Memorial Cross at 10:00 AM, and the laying of wreaths and flowers at the memorial at 10:45 AM.

Organised by the parliamentary Committee fostering traditions of liberation wars, the suffering of about 3,500 Serbs in Podrinje and Birač in the past war will be marked on Sunday, July 5, in Bratunac.

Milunović said that the suffering of the Serb people in that area began even before the outbreak of armed conflicts in BiH, when five soldiers of the then JNA were killed in an ambush in Potočari in April 1992, ten more were killed in Osmače, and Goran Zekić, a judge at the Srebrenica Basic Court and a member of parliament, was killed on May 8.

"This marked the beginning of the terror by Naser Orić and his hordes against the Serb population. From then until mid-January 1993, they killed over 2,000 people, carried out over 60 attacks on Serb villages, looting and destroying them and killing everything that moved", reminded Milunović.

He also mentioned the crime on Glođansko brdo committed against the captured 52 soldiers of the Republika Srpska Army, who were killed in terrible torment.

Milunović also said the Republika Srpska Army carried out a counter-offensive in 1993 with the intent of preserving the territory and the remaining population, defeating Naser Orić's forces that withdrew to Srebrenica, which the international community designated as a protected and demilitarized zone, which actually "was everything else, but that."

He emphasized that Orić's forces continued to attack Serb-populated villages even after the proclamation of the demilitarized zone, emphasizing that the attacks were most often carried out on Orthodox holidays.

Milunović said approximately 3,500 Serbs were killed in the area of Podrinje and Birač; 2,652 Serbs were killed in the area of Srebrenica, Zvornik, Skelani, Milići, Bratunac, Vlasenica and Osmaci.

"It should be noted that a very small number of people, several members of the so-called Army of BiH, were convicted of these crimes. Naser Orić, who not only commanded but also led the attacks and committed crimes, was acquitted. Elfeta Veseli was handed down the highest sentence of 13 years in prison for murdering the boy, Slobodan Stojanović, while the other punishments were way less severe", said Milunović.

A memorial service will be held at the Military Cemetery in Bratunac at 11:00 AM, followed by the laying of wreaths and flowers.

These two markings will be done in accordance with the decisions issued by the Republika Srpska Emergency Situation Staffbanning the gatherings over 50 people at public places. /end/vos