Ratko Mladic's defense witness Stevan Veljovic, a former operations officer who served in several VRS units, confirmed the prosecution's argument that the modified air bombs used by the Bosnian Serb army in the Sarajevo theatre of war were 'wholly inaccurate but highly destructive weapons'. Muslims called them 'random' bombs because no one could tell where they would hit. He claims they were not fired in built-up areas, but only on 'wider areas' where fighting was going on

Stevan Veljovic, defence witness at Rako Mladic trialStevan Veljovic, defence witness at Rako Mladic trial

Most of the former Bosnian Serb soldiers who have testified in the defense of the accused charged with the artillery and sniper terror campaign in Sarajevo have tried hard to play down the 'inaccuracy and destructive power' of the modified air bombs used by the Bosnian Serbs to attack the city in the last two years of the war. Stefan Veljovic who testified today in Ratko Mladic's defense, after appearing as a defense witness at the trials of Radovan Karadzic and Dragomir Milosevic veered off the beaten path and confirmed and added to the prosecution's allegations about air bombs.

At the beginning of the war in BH, Stevan Veljovic was appointed the operations officer in the 1st Romanija Brigade. In December 1994, he became the operations officer in the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps. Just before the end of the war, he assumed command of the 4th Sarajevo Brigade. In his statement to the defense he claimed that civilians in Sarajevo were never deliberately targeted from the Serb positions. According to him, civilians casualties occurred when Bosnian Serbs returned fire opened by the BH Army from residential areas, the Kosevo Hospital, Bascarsija and other locations in the city. He claims that no orders were ever issued to attack civilian areas, and that there were no 120mm mortars in the sectors on Mount Trebevic controlled by his troops in August 1995. Consequently, the shell that hit the Markale market could not have been fired from those positions.

According to the prosecution, the use of modified air bombs fired from Serb positions proves that the Serb army intended to terrorize the citizens of Sarajevo, as those bombs caused random destruction in residential areas. As he described the working of this innovative weapon, Veljovic said that the bombs had been designed to be dropped from airplanes, but were fitted with rockets and fired from specially designed launchers. As it was impossible to tell which rocket would function or fail, it was impossible to tell where a bomb would fall. Sometimes they missed the intended target by two kilometers. Those were 'wholly inaccurate and highly destructive weapons', Veljovic explained at previous trials, and he repeated this statement today.

He added that because of the unpredictability of the rockets used to propel them, the bombs would ’overshoot or undershoot' the targets. As it was impossible to tell where they would hit, Muslims in Sarajevo called them 'random' bombs. He added several details that corroborate the prosecution's case: the bombs had never been tested, everyone in the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps knew they were inaccurate, from the command to the rank and file soldiers, and they were a danger even to the crews that fired them. As Veljovic said, the bombs could only be fired on the orders of the commander of the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps, Dragomir Milosevic, who had to get approval from the Main Staff for their use.

Veljovic claims that those bombs were never fired on built-up areas because of their inaccuracy. They were fired only on open 'wider areas" where fighting was going on. In the cross-examination the prosecutor is likely to confront him with military documents describing the air bomb attacks on the city; the prosecution did so when the witness testified at previous trials.

Veljovic will continue his evidence tomorrow. Milos Skrba, who commanded a VRS company deployed on Mount Trebevic during the war, completed his evidence earlier today.