The Staged Sarajevo “Marketplace Massacre” 30 Years Ago

HISTORY, 12 Feb 2024

Swiss Policy Research - TRANSCEND Media Service

5 Feb 2024 – 30 years ago today [5 Feb 1994], the first Sarajevo “marketplace massacre” occurred, a fully staged false-flag event using actors and bodies of recently fallen soldiers. One year later, the second staged “marketplace massacre” and the Srebrenica “genocide” psyop paved the way for the first ever NATO military intervention.

Propaganda in the War on Yugoslavia (SPR)

Propaganda in the War on Yugoslavia – A Review of Western War Propaganda During the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s

(German: Jugoslawienkriege →)


The Yugoslav wars of the 1990s are generally seen as regional and ethnic conflicts, but from a geo­po­litical perspective, they were about restructuring South­east Europe after the end of the Cold War.

The overall American goal was to break up Yugoslavia and to drive back the influence of Serbia – a historical ally of Russia – in favor of Bosnian Muslims, Croats, Slovenians, and Kosovo Albanians. To this end, the US prevented diplomatic solutions and even secretly deployed Islamist combatants, with whom it had previously fought the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and whom it would later call “Al Qaeda”.

The political and media propaganda concerning the war on Yugoslavia has been well researched and documented by now. Interestingly, however, many commentators are still trying to uphold the official propaganda narrative of the time, in notable contrast to the later war on Iraq, for example.

There may be various reasons for this tenacity. On the one hand, the propaganda in question dates back to the early days of the Internet and is therefore generally less well known to the public. On the other hand, the implications, especially for Europe, are particularly far-reaching in this case.

From today’s perspective, it is a rather trivial statement that most Western media outlets supported the US/NATO war on Yugoslavia, but at the time even critics believed in a “media failure”, especially because the influence of foreign policy groups on media reporting was not yet broadly known.

The following sections provide an overview of propaganda in the war on Yugoslavia as well as references to further literature and documentation. Please note that the analysis does not call into question regional aspects of the conflict or any actual war crimes on any side of the conflict.

1. The Serbian “Death Camp” (1992)

One of the most notorious cases of propaganda concerns the alleged Serbian “death camp” of Trnopolje in Bosnia. The story began in August 1992, when three British TV journalists visited a refugee camp whose inmates emphasized that they were being treated very well (see video below).

The journalists, however, went inside a fenced-in storage area right next to the refugee camp and filmed the men on the outside through a barbed wire fence, making it appear as if the men were imprisoned, which in fact they were not (see site map below). The journalists then asked a man emaciated from illness or war-related malnutrition to take off his T-shirt.

The resulting photograph – carefully cut to size – landed on the front pages of most Western media as “proof” of Serbian “death camps”, which in turn served as justification for NATO’s subsequent intervention in Bosnia, starting with a no-fly zone.

The Trnopolje death camp deception was exposed by a German journalist in 1997. A British magazine republished his article but got sued for libel by the three British TV journalists. The British magazine eventually lost the case and had to file for bankruptcy because it couldn’t prove their intent.

The head of an American PR agency that helped spread the false death camp reports later explained: “We are professionals. We had a job to do and we did it. We are not paid to be moral.”

In 2003, shortly before his death, even former Bosnian President, Alija Izetbegociv, admitted in an interview: “I thought that my revelations could precipitate bombings. () I tried, but the assertion was false. Whatever the horror of these places may have been, there were no extermination camps.”

Video: The “Serbian death camp” deception (2 min., JBS, 2003)

2. The Sarajevo “Marketplace Massacres” (1992-1995)

Another well-known case of propaganda were the so-called “marketplace massacres” during the four-year siege of Sarajevo, in particular the so-called “bread line massacre” of May 1992 and the two so-called “Markale massacres” of February 1994 and August 1995.

These “massacres” were allegedly caused by mortar fire from outside of the city and happened shortly before important political consultations at the UN or EU. They ultimately led to a direct military intervention by NATO – the first in its history – and thus to a turnaround in the Bosnian war.

In the cases mentioned above as well as some others, investigations by officers of the UN protection mission came to the conclusion that these incidents may have been carried out by the Bosnian side itself in an attempt to influence Western public opinion (so-called false flag attacks).

The relevant UN reports, however, were kept secret. Instead, American media — most notably CNN — and the US government usually claimed without delay that the respective attack had probably been carried out by the Serbian side (see video below).

Canadian General Lewis MacKenzie, commander of the UN forces in Sarajevo, wrote about the 1992 incident: “Our people told us there were a number of things that didn’t fit. The street had been blocked off just before the incident. Once the crowd was let in and had lined up, the media appeared but kept their distance. The attack took place, and the media were immediately on the scene.”

About the 1994 incident, a BBC journalist noted with surprise how “television crews were on the scene, filming within seconds of the blast”, while UN officers and even doctors were prevented from entering the site, and all of the alleged 197 victims were carried away within 25 minutes. Others pointed out that the market was in fact closed at the time of the incident (see video below).

Regarding the 1995 incident, the London Sunday Times later revealed that British and French UN ammunition experts had concluded the Serbian side was “not guilty”, but they were then “overruled by a senior American officer”, and NATO air strikes began within less than 48 hours.

US professor Yossef Bodansky, the longtime director of the US Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, later described these incidents as “expertly-staged spectacle of gore” that included the use of “corpses of Bosnian troops recently killed in action”.

Twenty years later, the staged Bosnian “marketplace massacres” of 1994/95 were recalled when alleged poison gas attacks during the Syrian war turned out to be of a dubious nature and the results of UN and OPCW investigations were again suppressed to justify military strikes by NATO states.

Videos (18+)


Video: The staged 1994 Sarajevo “Marketplace Massacre” (1 min., BBC)

3. The “Srebrenica Genocide” (July 1995)

The alleged “Srebrenica genocide” in July 1995 is regarded as the sad climax of the Bosnian war. According to the official Western version, backed by the “International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia” (ICTY) in The Hague, more than 8000 Bosnian Muslims were killed by Bosnian Serb forces.

But according to Phillip Corwin, the highest-ranking UN civilian official in Bosnia during the war, the Western account of events in Srebrenica is part of a “disinformation campaign”. Late US political scientist Edward Herman called it a “gigantic fraud”, and former CIA officer Robert Baer, who was operating in Yugoslavia during the war, spoke of a “manipulation” and “political marketing”.

Indeed, several independent investigations have since contradicted the official Western account.

During the Bosnia war, the Bosnian Muslim enclave of Srebrenica, close to the Serbian border, was a supposedly demilitarized “safe area” protected by UN forces. In reality, Bosnian Muslim forces, led by commander Naser Oric, remained active in Srebrenica and committed dozens of massacres in nearby Bosnian Serb villages, killing about 1,500 civilians between 1992 and 1995. Moreover, the US military chartered so-called “black flights” to secretly supply Bosnian Muslim forces with arms.

Yet in early July 1995, Bosnian Muslim forces and males of military age (16-60), about 12,000 men in total, suddenly left Srebrenica – leaving behind only women, children, and the elderly – and tried to escape, through 80 kilometers of Serb-controlled territory, to the Muslim-controlled city of Tuzla.

In response, Bosnian Serb forces, led by General Ratko Mladic, entered Srebrenica, took control of the town and safely evacuated the remaining Muslim families, about 20,000 people, to nearby UN refugee camps, as AP journalists documented and as several supervising UN officers later confirmed.

However, during their 80 kilometer breakout from Srebrenica to Tuzla, the armed Bosnian Muslim column was repeatedly ambushed and attacked by Bosnian Serb forces and lost about 2,000 men. In addition, US aerial photographs show that Bosnian Serb forces took several hundred members of the Muslim column captive, about two hundred of whom were later exchanged for Bosnian Serb captives.

A 2021 study by Israeli professor Gideon Greif confirmed that no “genocide” and not even a massacre took place in the town of Srebrenica. The study argued that between 1,500 and 3,000 Bosnian Muslim captives of the Tuzla column may have been executed elsewhere by Bosnian Serb forces, but even these figures could not be substantiated by forensic investigations that took place after the war.

Only two major execution sites were confirmed forensically and in both cases the backstory was different than initially alleged. At the Kravica warehouse, 10 kilometers north of Srebrenica, it was claimed that about 1,000 Muslim prisoners were systematically executed, but witnesses stated that there was an armed prisoner uprising and that at most 300 Muslims were killed in response.

At the Branjevo farm near Pilica, 50 kilometers north of Srebrenica, it was claimed that Bosnian Serb forces had executed over 1,000 Muslims, but forensic investigators found only 150 bodies and trials showed the executions had been committed not by Serb forces, but by a foreign mercenary group.

One of the members of this mercenary group, the Croat Drazen Erdemovic, later served as the “crown witness” for the prosecution at The Hague, while the other members were never arrested. According to some reports, this rogue mercenary group was paid and controlled by Western intelligence services and was later involved in a coup attempt against Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic.

Already in late July 1995, a Dutch UN military officer stationed in Bratunac – a town 10 kilometers north of Srebrenica where executions were said to have taken place – told a Dutch newspaper:

“Everybody is parroting everybody, but nobody shows hard evidence. I notice that in the Nether­lands people want to prove at all costs that genocide has been committed. (…) If exe­cu­tions have taken place, the Serbs have been hiding it damn well. I don’t believe any of it. The day after the collapse of Srebrenica, July 13, I arrived in Bratunac and stayed there for eight days. I was able to go wherever I wanted to. I was granted all possible assistance; nowhere was I stopped.”

Although some spontaneous “reprisal killings” may have taken place in response to previous massacres committed by Naser Oric’s Bosnian Muslim troops, the ICTY trials at The Hague found no evidence of any execution order given at any command level of the Bosnian Serb forces, and no Bosnian Serb soldier or commander was ever convicted of direct involvement in any executions.

Instead, the former Srebrenica chief of police and other Muslim officials revealed that Bosnian Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic had privately informed them in 1995 that the unexpected evacuation and “sacrifice” of Srebrenica was part of a deal with US President Bill Clinton. According to these testimonies by Muslim officials, Clinton told Izetbegovic that a NATO military intervention was only possible if the Bosnian Serbs could be accused of having killed at least 5,000 Muslims at Srebrenica.

Ultimately, the Srebrenica story was used to achieve three goals. First, to launch a NATO bombing campaign against Bosnian Serb forces that led to the US-imposed Dayton agreement; second, to divert attention from the US-backed massacres committed by Naser Oric’s Muslim forces against Serb civilians; and third, to justify US-supported operations by the Croatian Army that displaced a quarter million Serbs from Croatia – the largest ethnic expulsion in Europe since World War II.

The “International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia” in The Hague, largely funded and staffed by the United States, later tried to enshrine the official Western version of events concerning Srebrenica and the Yugoslav wars while mostly disregarding any contradicting evidence. In some countries, there were even lawsuits against researchers questioning the official Srebrenica story.

In a 2014 talk on “The Criminalisation of International Justice”, Canadian ICTY defense attorney Christopher Black noted: “The point of these tribunals, why they were set up, is basically propaganda. The propaganda is meant to demonize the government which is being overthrown and to cover up the real role of the United States and its allies. That is the only role these tribunals really have.”

If Bosnian Serb forces did not commit large-scale massacres at Srebrenica, how was the official figure of 8,000 deaths arrived at? According to independent investigators, this was achieved by exaggerating deaths at Kravica and Pilica and by adding combat deaths and even survivors of the Tuzla column as well as military and civilian deaths at nearby places that occurred throughout the entire war.

At any rate, even events with a high number of reported victims should always be examined critically. This was already shown in 1989 by the supposed “Timisoara massacre” with 4630 reported deaths, which later turned out to have been a media hoax to help launch the Romanian revolution.


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