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A Year Later, Marketplace Massacre Mourners Still Wonder Why

February 5, 1995

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ The mortar shell that exploded in Sarajevo’s marketplace and killed 68 people made the world take notice. The bloody scene was televised around the globe.

But a year later, many in the Bosnian capital worry that the bloodshed has become another forgotten chapter in a sad, continuing book. And Senad Karavdic wonders if his wife’s death had any meaning at all.

``We hoped it would be the last massacre,″ Karavdic, 35, said Sunday, his voice trembling as he placed a paper wreath on a grave at the mud-churned Lion’s Cemetery near downtown Sarajevo.

Karavdic’s 34-year-old wife, Hasnija, died in the blast, and he said he hoped international outrage would silence the guns forever. Now, with fighting in its 34th month and Sarajevo still under Serb siege, he cannot hide his desperation.

``The massacre was the chance for the world to finally do something, but nothing has changed and this will never end,″ he said.

Families of the 68 dead paid their respects at the graveyard Sunday, letting the pain of lost husbands, wives and children wash over them again. Some cried soundlessly. Others wailed and keened as friends and relatives propped them up. Thick snowflakes shrouded the graves.

Karavdic’s bitterness contrasts sharply with the rare glimmer of optimism that shimmered across the Bosnian capital last February even amid the pain left by the massacre.

The scenes recorded by television crews at the marketplace _ the bodies of the dead and more than 200 wounded lying in blood amid twisted metal and shredded fabric _ brought the world into increased involvement.

Even though it was never clear who fired it, the single 82mm mortar shell succeeded where reports of Serb prison camps, systematic rapes and mass killing had failed.

For a few months, ``robust peacekeeping″ by the United Nations appeared to work. Serbs took the threat of NATO air strikes seriously, pulling heavy guns out of Sarajevo’s immediate vicinity. Streetcars trundled along Sniper Alley again as an eerie air of quasi-normality suffused the shell-scarred streets of the city.

But dreams of peace eroded when warring parties failed to agree on a final peace deal, increasing Bosnian Serb defiance.

In April, NATO proved ineffective in stemming a Bosnian Serb assault on the eastern government-held enclave of Gorazde. The Serbs called the world’s bluff, shrugging off several small-scale NATO air strikes and the threat of others that never materialized.

Today the wounds and memories of the marketplace shelling still hurt, while a sense of international betrayal and helplessness colors the thoughts of most of Sarajevo’s remaining 280,000 residents.

Sunday’s edition of the daily Oslobodjenje reserved its last five pages for obituaries for the dead of last Feb. 5.

``Markale (marketplace) was perhaps the only time the heartless world seriously threatened the criminals,″ the paper said. ``If the criminals could have truly been made scared, Sarajevo would not be a besieged city any longer and Bosnia would be a free country now.″

Hasiba Raonic, 70, sold scarce goods Sunday at the same spot where she stood last year when the shell struck.

``We are still living in fear,″ Raonic said.

Wounded by shrapnel then, she has returned to ponder her unpalatable lot.

``I am afraid to be here,″ she said, ``but I have to sell goods to survive.″

More than 200,000 people are dead or missing in Bosnia’s war, which began in April 1992 when Bosnian Serbs rebelled against the republic’s vote to secede from Serb-dominated Yugoslavia.

And the unrest continues. United Nations officials reported an uneasy calm across most of Bosnia on Sunday, with the exception of the northwestern Bihac pocket, where fighting between government forces and an alliance of rebel Bosnian and Croatian Serbs and renegade Muslims continues to confound a four-month truce.

A settlement, the hope of international negotiators, seems distant as ever. But still mourners cling to dreams that overshadow past letdowns.

``America will do something,″ Karavdic said. ``In the end they will have to do something, to use force, because the Serbs will never stop.″