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Bosnia now

Tuzla exemplifies both the horror and the hope of Bosnia, from the new memorial commemorating victims of a terror attack to the attitudes of some residents who are ready to go on with their lives.

As residents visit the special cemetery for those killed in the terror bombing, they cry and kiss graves.But when they return to their jobs, they are apt to work comfortably beside acquaintances who were on the other side during the war.

And nearly every one of them has an emotional story about the most dreadful day in Tuzla's history - May 25, 1995.

Aleksandar Ilic, an infantryman in the war, fought battles against Serb military units. "I was on the front lines. I never thought about, being in the army (would) save my life," he said.

Because he was with the Bosnia army's 250th Freedom Unit, he wasn't in his home city of Tuzla that May evening when Serbs shelled downtown. A howitzer round exploded in a busy cafe area, killing 71 and wounding about 150.

Among those killed was his girlfriend, Edina Ahmepasavic.

Ilic, an interpreter for the U.S. military at Eagle Base near Tuzla, talked about the massacre in a soft, sad voice.

"She got hit by a shrapnel to the liver and she didn't suffer too (long). She died after a few seconds," he said.

Rijad Bahic, another translator from Tuzla, was in a cafe with his girlfriend near the city's main mosque. It was the time of evening when the crowds are biggest.

"First, I saw a flash, then the detonation, then I hear, you know, a whole bunch of shrapnel going around and hitting in the glass," he said.

Bahic ran outside and saw a great cloud of smoke rising above the hole the explosion left in the pavement. But the worst sight was the injured and dying people.

"People were laying, screaming, crying, and it was like, you know, movie - like in a horror movie, the worst one. You know, the whole street was covered with bodies."

Some victims were his classmates from elementary or high school, some friends he knew outside school. "The U.N. investigators confirm it was from the Serbian positions up in the Ozren mountains. It was a howitzer, 120 or 155 ," Bahic said.

"Those were civilian victims. They were not soldiers. Their average (age) was 21."

One boy killed in the attack was three years old.

When a Deseret News reporter and photographer visited Tuzla last month, workers were putting the final touches on a large memorial to the blast victims. The memorial of colored tiles covers much of the intersection where the shell hit.

A large industrial city, Tuzla has tall apartment buildings and modern stores where well-dressed teenagers admire displays of American jeans. Its population, swollen by the displaced, is about 200,000.

Zehra Doric, an architect who stood on the sidewalk watching the workers, said it was unfortunate that the people who planned the war were not the victims. The common people can live in peace together, and Bosnia will have peace, she said.

Does that mean the Americans can leave? Not right away, she said.

"In the end of this century," it may be possible, she added.

Jusf Bjavjesovc hopes the conflict will end soon. He is a civilian who worked for the Yugoslav army for 30 years, then for the army of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and then for the coalition forces that keep the opposing forces apart.

As he stood beside workers cutting stones for the memorial, he said the people of Bosnia only have faith in the Americans.

"Americans, which are good friends and big friends of ours . . . we have a big trust in them," he said.

Renza Arsi, a 67-year-old immigrant from the nearby republic of Macedonia, sold plastic bags in the Tuzla market, in the midst of stalls selling budgie birds, fresh fruit, scarves, sweatshirts, jeans and sneakers.

The troubles happened when the Yugoslav dictator, Josip Broz Tito, died, she said. After his death in 1980, the country "started splitting and fighting . . . It's the national parties' fault," she said.

Shouting, she exclaimed she has lived in Tuzla for 40 years and life was good when the communist dictator ruled.

"There were many things good, but the most important thing was nobody was bothering you. And when Tito was alive it was really good," she said through a translator.

"Tito was really good. He was the man for the people. He took care of them."

Mustafa Krsnie, 35, a Muslim from Tuzla who was an officer in the army of Bosnia-Herzegovina, stopped his car on the street so he could talk. "If the Americans leave, there's a possibility there will be a war again, probably in like three months after you leave," he said.

Yet another man on the street, a Muslim displaced person from Bratunac (a city now in the republic set up by the Bosnian Serbs) wasn't excited to see American soldiers.

He said he "guesses" Americans should be in Bosnia, but then asked what they would protect him from.

"He said that's kind of funny, because people can protect themselves with their own forces."

He added that "in about two years, you shouldn't be here."

Nedzad Budakovic, a Muslim in a barber shop in downtown Tuzla, was nearly incoherent when he spoke about the killings in his hometown. He is a refugee from Bijeljina, an area now controlled by Bosnian Serbs.

"He's been a witness when 3,000 to 4,000 people were killed in Bijeljina. He has seen a lot of people on the streets that, you know, were surrounded with the blood, and he's also seen a lot of people being killed," the translator, Medina Hadvribrisebic, reported.

Budakovic said he saw a friend bicycling to work when members of a Serb military group, the White Eagles, shot him to death.

Jusuf Hadzic, a barber near the Turkish quarter, also fled Bijeljina, where 3,000 to 4,000 people "disappeared."

But in Tuzla, Serbs, Croats and Muslims get along well together, he said, speaking through the translator. They have good relationships, work at the same companies.

What would happen if the United States were to pull out of Bosnia?

"He says he doesn't really know what would happen, but there might be some fighting," Hadvribrisebic interpreted. "Not as much as during the war, but it would be some fighting."

How long should the United States stay? "He says since you stayed in Germany for 50 years, you're probably going to end up staying here for 20 years."