Bosnia arrests seven former military officers and soldiers over wartime killings

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By Euronews  with AP
Nine people in total are suspected of the crime near Sokolac in 1992.
Nine people in total are suspected of the crime near Sokolac in 1992.   -  Copyright  HANDOUT - Tužilaštvo Bosne i Hercegovine

Bosnia has arrested seven former military officers and troops suspected in the killing of 44 Bosniak civilians during the 1992-95 war.

A total of nine individuals are suspected of the crime in the area of Sokolac, according to a statement from Bosnia's prosecutor's office.

Those arrested are accused of planning, organising, and taking part in "a widespread and systematic attack on the Bosniak civilian population".

They include former senior officials of the Sokolac Crisis Staff who were "direct perpetrators" of the murders, say the prosecutor's office.

44 Bosniak civilians, the youngest aged 14, were killed in the village of Novoseoci in Sokolac municipality in September 1992.

Bosnian Serbs separated men from women and children in the village before taking the men away to a nearby dump where they were "brutally killed by gunfire", the statement said.

After the killings, a mosque in Novoseoci was demolished, and the rubble was thrown over the bodies of the victims.

Meanwhile, the women and children were reportedly expelled and transported to Sarajevo.

All but one of the victims' remains have been exhumed from the site, prosecutors said. Some had as many as 178 bullet wounds.

More than 100,000 people died during the war in Bosnia which erupted when the country's Serbs rebelled against independence from the former Yugoslavia and moved to create their own state.

The arrests on Wednesday were made through a coordinated operation by the Special Department for War Crimes and police officers from the State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA).

The seven individuals were detained in the early hours of the morning, while authorities will also request the extradition of another suspect from abroad.

Also among the suspects is Radislav Krstić, who was convicted by the U.N. war crimes tribunal on charges of aiding genocide in 2004, and is currently serving a 35-year prison sentence.

The case prosecutor in Bosnia is due to examine the detained suspects before deciding on further activities related to the case.