Military Wiki
1st Markale Market Shelling
Location Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Date 5 February 1994
Between 12:10pm-12:15pm (Central European Time)
Target Open air market
Attack type
Mortar attack
Deaths 68
Non-fatal injuries
2nd Markale Market Shelling
Location Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Date 28 August 1995
Appox. 11:00a.m. (Central European Time)
Target Open air market
Attack type
Mortar attack
Deaths 38[1]
Non-fatal injuries

The Markale massacres were two 120mm mortar attacks against civilians during the Siege of Sarajevo in the Bosnian War. They occurred at the Markale (marketplace) located in the historic core of Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The first happened on 5 February 1994; 68 people were killed and 144 more were wounded. The second occurred on 28 August 1995; 38 people were killed and another 75 were wounded.

First massacre

The first massacre occurred between 12:10 and 12:15 PM, on 5 February 1994, when a shell landed in the center of the crowded marketplace.[2] Rescue workers and United Nations (UN) personnel rushed to help the numerous civilian casualties, while footage of the event soon made news reports across the world.[2] An initial UNPROFOR report claimed that the shell was fired from Bosnian government positions. General Michael Rose, the British head of UNPROFOR, revealed in his memoirs that three days after the blast he told General Jovan Divjak, the deputy commander of ARBiH forces, that the shell had been fired from Bosnian positions.[2] A later and more in-depth UNPROFOR report noted a calculation error in the original findings. With the error corrected, the United Nations concluded that "There is insufficient evidence to prove that one party or the other fired the mortar bomb. The mortar bomb in question could have been fired by either side." [3]

The ICTY Trial Chamber's judgment in the trial against Stanislav Galic, a Serb general in the siege of Sarajevo states that "The Majority finds that the mortar shell which exploded at Markale market on 5 February 1994 was fired from (Bosnian Serb) SRK-controlled territory." [4] Judge Rafael Nieto-navia dissented from the majority's finding because he was "not satisfied that the evidence shows beyond a reasonable doubt that this projectile was fired from SRK-controlled territory."[5]

The Bosnian-Serbs and Bosnian-Muslims accuse each other of firing the shell. On the day of the massacre, Alija Izetbegovic's spokesman, Kemal Muftic, said the 120mm mortar shell was fired from a Serb-held position north of Sarajevo.[6] The Serbs denied firing the shell and claimed that "the shell that landed on Markale market was launched from Bosnian Army positions some 2 km away."[7]

Although the Bosnian-Serbs are widely blamed for the massacre, some international officials have alleged that "the Bosnian government had the most to gain from the massacre." [8] They allege that the Bosnian army shelled its own people to garner Western sympathy and draw NATO into a war with the Serbs.[9]

The Galic Trial Chamber also noted that "Evidence to the effect that ABiH forces attacked their own civilians was adduced at trial. UN representatives stationed in Sarajevo testified that, during the conflict, information had been gathered indicating that elements sympathetic or belonging to the ABiH may have shelled on occasions the Muslim population of Sarajevo. More generally, such elements would have engaged in behaviour objectively putting civilians in ABiH-controlled territory at risk in order to draw international sympathy."[10] However, it also went on to state that "only a minimal fraction of attacks on civilians could be reasonably attributed to such conduct".

In response to the massacre, NATO imposed a 20 kilometer heavy weapons "exclusion zone" around the city, which led to a temporary reduction in shelling and sniping.[11][12][13]

Second massacre

The second massacre occurred about 18 months later, at around 11:00 AM on 28 August 1995. In response to the massacre, NATO launched air strikes against Bosnian Serb forces.

The UNPROFOR investigation states that "Five rounds landed in the vicinity of the Markale Market at 1110 hours on 28 August 1995. One round, in particular, caused the majority of the deaths, casualties and damage." They found that "After analysing all available data, the judgement was made that beyond reasonable doubt all mortar rounds fired in the attack on the Markale Market were fired from Bosnian Serb territory." The UNPROFOR investigation concluded that "Based on the evidence presented, the firing position of the five mortars was in BSA territory and probably fired from the Lukavica area at a range of between 3,000 and 5,000 meters."[14]

In contrast to UNPROFOR's finding that the fatal shell had been fired from the direction of Lukavica, the ICTY Trial Chamber in the Dragomir Milošević case was "persuaded by the evidence of the BiH police, the UNMOs and the first UNPROFOR investigation, which concluded that the direction of fire was 170 degrees, that is, Mount Trebevic, which was (Bosnian-Serb) SRK-held territory."[15] In addition, a second ICTY trial chamber in the Momčilo Perišić trial also found that "the mortar shell was fired from the (Bosnian-Serb) VRS held territory on the slopes of Mt. Trebevic."[16]

David Harland, the former head of UN Civil Affairs in Bosnia, testified at the trial of General Dragomir Milošević in ICTY that "the principal doubt about who fired these five mortar shells that killed all these civilians arises because General Smith made a statement to the press that his investigation showed that it was not clear who fired the shells. Now, in fact, I had been speaking with General Smith, and he chose to make that very neutral statement when, in fact, he was already aware - he had in his hand the technical assessment - that the shots were fired from Lukavica. He chose to make a neutral statement so as to not to alarm the Serbs, who would otherwise have known that he was about to call in NATO air-strikes, which is what, in fact, he did." He said, "I was advising him to do that. I was with him that morning. The situation, Your Honour, was that when it was reported that the Serbs had fired these rounds and killed this large number of civilians, he decided, on the advice of his colleagues, that he would call for widespread NATO air attacks. The problem that he had was that at that very moment some UNPROFOR troops, British troops, were on Serb-held territory between Goražde and the Serbian border. He, therefore, needed a few hours of time to get the UNPROFOR troops off Serb territory to be entirely safe before the NATO bombers could be brought in." [17]

The former commander of UN Forces in Sarajevo, Russian colonel Andrei Demurenko, asserted that UNPROFOR's research was flawed, as it began from the conclusion that the shells were fired from Bosnian Serb positions and didn't test any other hypothesis; and that he, immediately visiting the supposed mortar locations found that neither of them could be used to fire the shells. He concludes that Bosnian Serb forces were falsely blamed for the attack in order to justify NATO attacks against the Serbs.[18][19][20]

Republika Srpska authorities, as in the 1994 incident, denied all responsibility and accused the Bosnian government of bombarding its own people to incite international outrage and NATO intervention.[21]

In 2009 the ICTY Appeals Chamber overturned Dragomir Milosevic's conviction for the 28 August 1995 shelling of the Markale Market,[22] and Perisic was acquitted by the ICTY Appeals Chamber in 2013.[23]

See also


  1. Dragomir Milosevic Judgment, para 467.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Fish, Jim. (5 February 2004). Sarajevo massacre remembered. BBC.
  3. ICTY Galic Exhibit P2261, "UNPROFOR investigation report Sarajevo Market Explosion of 5 February 1994", Para. 17
  4. Stanislav Galic judgement, Para 493
  5. Separate and Partially Dissenting Opinion of Judge Nieto-navia, para 71 [1]
  6. The Associated Press "Sarajevo's Worst Shelling Kills Dozens" February 5, 1994, Saturday, AM cycle
  7. BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, "Karadzic and Serbian experts claim Sarajevo market massacre was faked" February 10, 1994
  8. Foreign Policy "Anatomy of a Massacre," No. 97 (Winter, 1994-1995), pp. 70-78
  9. The Washington Post, "The Shell That Changed the Bosnian War; Mortar Attack on Market in Sarajevo Shattered Families, but Brought World Attention," February 05, 1995, Sunday, Final Edition
  10. Stanislav Galic judgement, Paras 211, 589
  11. Rupert Smith, The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World, Vintage (February 12, 2008), ISBN 0307278115
  12. Witness Statement of Gen. Michael Rose, ICTY Karadzic trial Exhibit P1638
  13. Newsweek, "Counting Down," February 28, 1994 pg. 20
  14. UNPROFOR investigation scheduled shelling incident of 28.08.95; Dragomir Milosevic ICTY Exhibit P00357
  15. Dragomir Milosevic Judgment, Para 719
  16. Perisic Judgment, Para 467
  17. Dragomir Milosevic Trial Transcript, 16 January 2007, pg. 434-435
  18. (Russian) [
  19. 070705ED
  20. Steven L. Burg, Paul S. Shoup (1999). The war in Bosnia-Herzegovina: ethnic conflict and international intervention. p. 168. 
  21. Moore, Patrick. (29 August 2005). Serbs Deny Involvement in Shelling. Omri Daily Digest.
  22. ICTY Dragomir Milosevic Appeal Judgment, para 294
  23. ICTY Perisic Appeal Judgment

Coordinates: 43°51′35″N 18°25′27″E / 43.85972°N 18.42417°E / 43.85972; 18.42417

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