AIR BOMBS WERE WORSE THAN UNRELIABLE
Engineer Milomir Soja described at the trial of Ratko Mladic an unsuccessful attempt by the Bosnian Serb army to improve the electronic firing mechanism on modified air bombs launchers. As the prosecution alleges, the bombs were extremely inaccurate and caused civilian casualties in Sarajevo
The last prosecution witness in the stand this week at the trial of Ratko Mladic was Milomir Soja, an electronics engineer. In 1995, Soja was doing his compulsory work service, and was involved in modifying the air bomb launchers. The bombs were used by the Bosnian Serb army. Soja had already testified at the trials of Radovan Karadzic and the former Sarajevo-Romanija Corps commander, Dragomir Milosevic. Today, his statement to the OTP investigators and parts of his testimony at the latter trial were admitted into evidence. Milosevic was sentenced to 29 years in prison, among other things, because he used air bombs to attack Sarajevo.
Prosecutor Hochhauser read out the summary of the witness’s statement. In the spring of 1995, Soja and another colleague were summoned to the Pretis factory in Vogosca to improve the electronic firing mechanism on the rockets attached to the air bombs. The new system turned out to be even less reliable than the previous one: an air bomb was fired on the refrigerating facility used by the BH Army in Stup. The bomb didn’t even reach the target. It exploded in flight over the territory under the VRS control, the witness recounted. Soon afterwards, the old, simpler firing mechanism was fitted on the rockets.
As Soja said, anti-hail rockets were fitted onto the 100 and 250-kg air bombs, and the bombs were then launched using a special electrical mechanism from specially designed launchers. As far as Soja knew, the launchers were placed in at least four locations in the city – in Ilidza, Ilijas, Vogosca and Blazuj.
When Mladic’s defense counsel Miodrag Stojanovic asked Soja if the air bomb launch systems had ever been tested before being put to use, Soja said he had heard that an air bomb had been fired on Mount Zuc as a test. Apart from the time when the air bomb missed the refrigerating facility in Stup, the witness was not aware of any other instances that would tell him how accurate or inaccurate the air bombs were. The prosecution has been arguing that they were highly inaccurate and that their use made the terror campaign against the citizens of Sarajevo even worse than the artillery and sniper attacks did.
As the witness said, in the summer of 1995 he heard the typical sound of air bombs flying and hitting a target five or six times. Also, Soja confirmed that the firing coincided with the period of intense combat between the BH Army and the VRS.
In a bid to absolve the accused of responsibility for the use of air bombs, the defense counsel asked the witness if he knew whether the VRS Main Staff was in any way ‘involved in selecting targets’ for modified bombs. The witness said he didn’t know anything about it. The Sarajevo-Romanija Corps which actually used the air bombs was directly subordinated to the Main Staff during the war in BH.
Ratko Mladic’s trial continues on Monday.
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