News 15 Mar 13

Sarajevo Documents History of Wartime Siege Tunnel

The authorities want to establish the definitive history of the ‘salvation tunnel’ which allowed aid to be brought in and people to get out during the 1990s siege of the city.

Denis Dzidic
BIRN
Sarajevo
Sarajevo tunnel/Photo by www.tunelspasa.ba

The Sarajevo canton authorities have begun work on a document entitled ‘History of the Salvation Tunnel’, which they hope will lay out all the facts about the 960-metre-long tunnel between the city’s Dobrinja and Butmir neighbourhoods which was dug by Bosnian troops in 1993.

The Sarajevo Canton Memorial Fund, which is in charge of the memorial complex at the tunnel, organised a meeting to discuss the draft document on Thursday with the municipality presidents of Sarajevo and wartime Bosnian generals Sefer Halilovic, Vahid Karavelic and Zaim Backovic.

“We must define all the historical facts around the tunnel in the most objective way. Then they will all be placed in the ‘History of the Salvation Tunnel’ document which will also then determine the way in which we will arrange the memorial complex on the Dobrinja and Butmir sides,” said director of the fund, Nurudin Dziho.

During the conflict, the Bosnian Serb Army held the hills surrounding the Bosnian capital but in 1993, Bosnian forces succeeded in digging the tunnel underneath the neutral area at Sarajevo Airport controlled by the United Nations, linking Dobrinja and Butmir.

It became a symbol of the city’s struggle and allowed food and humanitarian aid to come into the city and people to get out.

One of the meeting’s participants, Sarajevo canton veterans minister Asim Dzambasovic, called on anyone who has documents about the tunnel to come forward.

“There are many versions about the idea and the construction of the tunnel and I hope we will get to the bottom of it through this discussion and the upcoming meetings,” said Dzambasovic.

Historian Mesud Sadinlija, who prepared the draft document, said that he hoped to incorporate evidence such as military and political orders in the final document as well as statements.  

The meeting’s participants agreed that an expert team should be formed as soon as possible and that the beginning of the document should read: “The tunnel was built by the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina – the command and units – with the support of the official government. It belongs to no one in particular and at the same time to everyone in the military and political system from top to bottom.”

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