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COURTSIDE: Sarajevo Trial

Sarajevo firemen liken every day of the siege to September 11

The head of the Sarajevo fire brigade last week said every day of the Bosnian Serb siege of the city could be likened to last September 11 in New York, when the World Trade Center collapsed as a result of terrorist attacks.

Mesud Jusufovic was testifying in the trial of the former Bosnian Serb commander Stanislav Galic accused of involvement in the shelling and sniping attacks against the city.

"Every day was September 11 for the firemen of Sarajevo," said Jusufovic, adding that the city firemen took part in dousing 240 major fires during the four-year siege - the same number that they would normally deal with in about 500 years of peacetime activity.

To demonstrate the criminal intention of the forces under the Bosnian Serb Sarajevo-corps commander, Jusufovic said that the water supply was often cut off and the fire-brigade station targeted before the city was shelled. "We had to extinguish fires crawling on the ground, because the Bosnian Serb force targeted us with every weapon they had at their disposal", he said.

On some occasions, he said, as soon as they put out a fire in a building, renewed shelling ignited more fires. People who lived in targeted buildings had to act like "trained firemen and acrobats".

The presidency, the Holiday Inn hotel and the television building were most frequent attacked. While Galic's defense suggested legitimate military targets might have lain in the vicinity of buildings hit, the witness insisted the latter were for civilian use only. The trial continues.

Vjera Bogati is an IWPR special correspondent at The Hague and a journalist with SENSE News Agency.

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