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Shock and protests in Bosnia as woman's murder is streamed live on social media

A police officer holds rifle during a major chase for a man who shot and killed his partner while broadcasting it live on Instagram in Gradacac, Bosnia. 11 August 2023
A police officer holds rifle during a major chase for a man who shot and killed his partner while broadcasting it live on Instagram in Gradacac, Bosnia. 11 August 2023 Copyright AP/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright AP/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
By Una Hajdari
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He tracked down his estranged partner and shot her, point blank, and streamed it all live on Instagram. A young woman's gruesome murder has left Bosnia reeling as authorities face pressure to curb partner violence.

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Outrage and sadness has swept Bosnia and Herzegovina, and prompted hundreds of people to take to the streets in protest following the brutal murder of a young woman by her partner, which he streamed live on Instagram.

Placards emblazoned with messages such as “Stop the abusers!” followed calls on authorities to step up their response to partner violence and abuse.

Protests also followed the funeral of Nizama Hećimović, which took place on Monday in Gradačac, her hometown, where she was murdered last Friday by her partner who tracked her down after she tried to get away from him following repeated incidents of abuse.

The perpetrator is described in local outlets as being a successful bodybuilder who participated in international competitions. He also had a criminal record involving arrests for large-scale drug trafficking.

Nizama was shot in the presence of their nine-month-old child.

Her cousin was injured during the attack, and then the shooter went on a shooting spree, killing two men -- a father and son -- and wounded another two as he continued his rampage in the centre of the city, before shooting himself.

Only days before she was killed, Nizama filed a court petition for a restraining order against her eventual killer.

Wednesday was declared a day of mourning in the two main entities of the country.

Murder in the age of viral streams

The Instragram live-stream and the account of the perpetrator have been deleted, but not before it started quickly picking up viewers.

He announced his act by saying “now you are going to see a live murder.” Previously, the bodybuilder had largely been posting fitness routines and photographs of motorcycles.

The recording of Nizama’s murder amassed over 12,000 views and around 300 likes before it was shut down, which also translated to an increase in followers for the killer’s account.

Bosnian authorities tasked with following cyber criminality were alerted of the video around noon on Friday, two hours after the murder took place. They immediately sent a request to Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, to have the video removed.

After killing his partner, the perpetrator made another live video where he announced he was going to murder more people and tracked down a man and his family that had sued him in the past, according to the local press. The father and the son were killed and the mother injured, for a total of three more casualties. A police officer sitting in his squad car was also wounded in the shooting spree.

Finally, around three hours after the first video was posted, the entire account was shut down. While no Bosnian or international outlets have shared the video, a cursory search by Euronews revealed that several copies of the video can still be found online, which often occurs if content is not immediately blocked on the platform.

Instagram has a no-tolerance policy towards photographs of what they claim is female nudity, but its response lagged in the past when it comes to violent content.

The most famous live-stream of murders is the 2019 Christchurch massacre, when a far-right, white nationalist shooter entered two mosques in the New Zealand city and killed around 51 people, injuring 40. The entire event was streamed on Facebook, and copies of the video exist online to this day.

The incident has inspired copycats globally, causing global outrage and forcing social media platforms to pledge to crack down on the sharing of violent content online.

AP/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
Car is seen on the site of a shooting, in the small Bosnian town of Gradacac, Bosnia, Friday, Aug. 11, 2023.AP/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved

Officials claim 'no words', citizens fume

Nermin Nikšić, the Prime Minister of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, stated he could not find the right words to describe his shock.

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"There are no words to describe what happened,” he said and expressed his "deepest condolences" to the families of the victims.

"From the very beginning, all the capacities of the Federal Police Administration were available and helped in the search … unfortunately, situations like this cannot be predicted, but we can do our best to deal institutionally with every form of violence and crime," Nikšić concluded.

Similar statements were made by other Bosnian officials, but locals were not appeased by their words.

An informal assembly of citizens in Gradačac gathered over 1,000 signatures in a petition expressing their indignation with the work of the authorities in preventing this.

One of the local residents who participated in the protests, Miralem Topalović, told domestic news site Klix.ba that he was participating in the protests as a “rebellion against the inaction of the state institutions.”

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In a rare display of regional solidarity, protesters in Belgrade – who have held weekly rallies against violence since a school shooting in the Serbian capital in May killed 10 pupils – held a minute of silence in solidarity with the victims of Gradačac.

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