The Officer Who First Took Charge of the Zvornik Seven


Berserkistan hands-down had the best reporting on Bosnia. They did what reporters should do: Dig into the story behind the “story”, rather than accepting everything at the face value handed to them by government “spokesmen”. I’ve always suspected Officer X was a member of the 432nd Civil Affairs Battalion. Too bad Berserkistan wasn’t around for the Second Gulf War in 2003.

Team Berserkistan has obtained an exclusive interview with the IFOR Civil Affairs officer in charge at the rock quarry where The Zvornik Seven surrendered to an American Artillery unit on May 10th. Due to the tension surrounding this incident, the officer will be referred to as ‘Officer X.’ He is not a junior officer and has numerous foreign civil affairs missions under his belt.

Interview by Jim Bartlett
Editor in Chief, Berserkistan


CAMP ALICIA, Bosnia, May 24 (Berserkistan)

Berserkistan: The artillery unit at the quarry took the detainees into custody and did there primary search on them. Then IPTF arrived by virtue of passing, and then you responded. When you arrived on scene, what happened from there?

Officer X: Okay, first of all, the artillery unit did not take these people into custody—these people turned themselves over to us. We didn’t go looking for them, they came to us. When I arrived, the IPTF guy and the artillery unit had separated the individuals. They had them turn over their weapons, which turned out to be two pistols and a couple hand grenades, and they were in the process of searching them to make sure they didn’t have any hidden weapons. They were questioning them as to why they were where they were at. At that time when I showed up, I used myself and two other people in my convoy with interpreters, and we went through the interview process.

Berserkistan: What were you able to learn?

Officer X: They said they had been hiding out in the vicinity of Srebrenica since last July, that depending which individual we talked to, they had been walking four to seven days to get to this point. They were in route to Tuzla. They were just trying to get to the BiH side… their appearance didn’t match their story.

Berserkistan: To you, what was their appearance?

Officer X: There was a guy in loafers, a guy in torn up sneakers, guy in a short-sleeve button shirt with sweat pants on. Their boots were cleaner than mine. These people hadn’t been walking around in the woods for seven days. They didn’t look like people who had been hiding out for almost a year.

Three of them were clean shaven, two or three of them were clean shaven. I mean it’s been a few days now. We found no razors in any of their backpacks or anything, [yet] these guys were clean shaven. A couple had one or two days worth of growth, one guy had a full beard.

Their clothes were dirty but not excessively dirty. I mean, if you’ve been hiking through the woods for seven days with one set of clothes, you don’t have time to stop and wash them in the creek. They didn’t look like they had been marching, force marching, for four to seven days. They weren’t equipped when we found them [or appear] to be a military type unit.

They had two small handguns, 7.62mm handguns and three hand grenades, so they weren’t carrying equipment to resemble a military uniform, none of them were in a complete uniform. There was a couple who had bits and pieces, a couple had olive drab pants on. So I made the determination that they were civilians based on their equipment, their dress. They made no claim to be soldiers trying to get back, they just said that they were people hiding from Srebrenica since last July. That’s why, in my mind it was a police issue, not a military issue.

Berserkistan: After you conducted your initial interviews, who called the VRS Police (Vojska Republike Srbske).

Officer X: No one called them. When I left the “Dawg Pound” (Camp Alicia, 1/4 Cavalry) my guidance was, ‘Find a VRS patrol, before you reach the quarry. Let them know what’s going on and have them meet you there.’ In route from here to the quarry, right at the IEBL (Inter-Entity Boundary Line) marker, there was a two-man VRS patrol sitting there. We stopped, one NCO in my convoy and I both knew the police officers, and we told them where we were going. They said it was not in their sector but they would radio the people who’s sector it was. My guess is that they radioed Zvornik headquarters, because that is where the vehicle came up from.

Berserkistan: Who ordered you to make initial contact with VRS?

Officer X: That came down from the S-3.

Berserkistan: After they arrived, what transpired?

Officer X: Well, we finished searching all the people, interviewing them. As we were finishing that up, I had walked over to talk to the IPTF guy, told him that I felt that they were civilians, it was going to be a civilian police issue. Once the VRS got a vehicle there that could transport these people, we got assurances from VRS that IPTF would be able to monitor the interrogation and the police process with these guys. The IPTF guy told me that he would go.

While we were standing there having this conversation, there were shots fired on the hill above us then there was a muffled explosion. We all kind of went to man the perimeter, man the mounted machine-guns we had, found rocks, whatever, and realized that they weren’t shooting at us. There was no rounds impacting in the quarry. We maintained a perimeter and I went back and called in that we had had shots fired on the hill above us. The VRS showed up with a van and we turned them over to them.

Berserkistan: After they were turned over to VRS police, did you accompany them to Zvornik?

Officer X: Negative. IPTF’s mandate is to monitor civilian police activity.

Berserkistan: So once the VRS had custody of them, that was out of your jurisdiction and that was the end of your contact with the seven.

Officer X: In this format yes. The IPTF followed them down there, later that night we went down to try to do an interrogation with them and I sat in the hallway and saw the seven of them there. I had no interaction with them.

Berserkistan: So now that it’s been turned over to IPTF and the other international organizations, it’s more or less out of your jurisdiction?

Officer X: No, we’re still involved in it. We have some people tracking it, trying to verify stories and stuff like that. I’m not involved in it personally, it’s out of my, to use the term, jurisdiction. It’s not something I’m involved in. I’m back to doing what I do on a normal basis. There are people who are involved with it, more of our military police, people who are trained to do that stuff. I just happened to be on the scene that day.

Team Berserkistan was the only news organization to interview the people directly involved with the incident. ‘Officer X’ commented on his relations with the press.

“I wish they would come out and see, and do articles, on what we’re doing good out here—the NGO projects that we’re bringing to the sector. First time they want to talk to a civil affairs guy is when somebody thinks he made a mistake. We have approximately forty projects going on in this sector at one stage or the other. Schools, water systems, electrical systems, seed packets and farm animals to the farmers, personal hygiene items… whatever the NGOs will do for them. We’re the ones who introduce the NGOs to the areas that need help. Nobody ever writes about that.”

‘Clever Endeavor’ Not So Clever After All The Officer Who First Took Charge of the Zvornik Seven 432nd members back with families