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US extradites war crimes suspect to Bosnia

By Aida Cerkez
December 27, 2011
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SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina—The United States has extradited a Muslim Bosnian woman accused of killing Bosnian Croat civilians during the 1990s Bosnian War, authorities said Tuesday.

The prosecutor's office said Rasema Handanovic, 38, has arrived in Bosnia and will appear in front of judges Wednesday.

Handanovic -- who has a son and parents in the U.S. -- was extradited a week after the U.S. handed over her alleged comrade Edin Dzeko, 39, who is accused of taking part in the same killings.

Both are alleged to have belonged to a Bosnian Army unit that attacked the southern Bosnian Croat village of Trusina in 1993, killing 18 civilians. Witnesses say she personally shot some victims in the head.

Handanovic had been living in Beaverton, Oregon, and was arrested in April at the request of Bosnian authorities.

She immigrated to the U.S. and became a citizen in 2002. Dzeko immigrated to the U.S. in 2001, and became a naturalized citizen in 2006. He had been living in Washington state.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Donald C. Ashmanskas had denied Handanovic bail in April while she awaited the ruling on her extradition, saying that she posed a danger to society in the U.S. and Bosnia. Dzeko told a judge at his November extradition hearing in Seattle that he wants to be tried in Bosnia and clear his name.

Handanovic and Everett are accused of killing 16 or 17 people in a tiny mountain village called Trusina on April 16, 1993. Such charges carrying a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison.

The charges are based on the statements of fellow combatants who were given anonymity and state protection by the Bosnian government in exchange for their testimony.

Civil war among Bosnia's three main groups -- Muslims, Serbs and Croats -- broke out in 1992 and lasted until 1995, killing 260,000 people and driving 1.8 million from their homes. Muslims and Croats were allied against the Serbs at the start of the war, but they became enemies when Croat forces sought to capture territory held by the Bosnian army.

War crimes trials have been occurring since the end of the war. The worst atrocity was Bosnian Serbs' slaughter of 7,500 Muslims in Srebrenica in July 1995. The killings galvanized international will to end the war.

The testimony from combatants differs somewhat, but the underlying narrative, included in the prosecution's file, is consistent.

According to it, Handanovic's unit rounded up a group of Croat residents and, along with three captured soldiers from the Croatian military, bound and shot them, the combatants said.

As they lay dying, she "shot into the heads of two or three (Croat) soldiers who were lying on the ground and showing signs of life," a combatant testified. "She might have shot more of them, but I cannot remember now."

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Nigel Duara contributed to this story from Portland, Oregon

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