Bosniak leader pays tribute to Serb wartime victims

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Muslim Bosniak leader Bakir Izetbegovic paid tribute Monday to the victims of a Bosnian Muslim paramilitary group during the 1992-95 Bosnian war, visiting the mountain where they were thrown into a crevice by a unit seeking revenge against Serbs.

Izetbegovic placed white flowers on a rock at the massacre site in the outskirts of Sarajevo, in a gesture of reconciliation with Serbs.

"It is very sad what happened here," said Izetbegovic, who represents Muslim Bosniaks in the country's three-member presidency.

"We have to do everything to prevent these things from repeating ever again. To anyone. Anywhere," he said, adding he should have visited the place earlier and that he hopes his visit will inspire other politicians in Bosnia to pay tribute to victims their own ethnic group killed.

The head of the Serb Civic Council, an association of Sarajevo Serbs, praised Izetbegovic's move.

"This act will contribute a lot to reconciliation here," said Milorad Novakovic, the head of the association. "It will contribute to a joint life here; it will contribute to lasting peace and tolerance."

The Kazani pit killings, as they came to be known, occurred during a months-long onslaught by the paramilitary group, which sought revenge for a siege by nationalist Serbs of Sarajevo. Their victims included Serbs who favored national unity, as well as some Croats and even some Muslims.

The paramilitary forces were stopped when Bosnian government forces overwhelmed the unit and killed its commander in 1993.

The killings by the unit threw a shadow on the government and its image of being an advocate of a multiethnic Bosnia, even though dozens of the perpetrators were tried for war crimes and several government forces were killed while crushing the unit.

At the time of the killings and the subsequent fight against the paramilitary unit, Izetbegovic's father was the president of the country.