PROHICI, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- The video horrified the world: a grinning Ratko Mladic patting a young Muslim boy on the head and assuring him everyone in the Srebrenica area would be safe -- just hours before overseeing the murder of 8,000 men and boys.
The boy in the video is now a 24-year-old man. He clearly recalls the sunny day in July 1995 when he met the Bosnian Serb military commander who gave him chocolate.
"I was 8 and I didn't know what was going on or who Ratko Mladic was," Izudin Alic told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview yesterday.
Mladic, 69, was captured last week by Serbian intelligence agents after 16 years on the run, and the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague plans to try him for genocide. Mladic was flown yesterday to the Netherlands after judges rejected his appeal against extradition.
In 1995, Alic was among thousands of Bosnian Muslims who fled to the Srebrenica area, seeking protection from UN troops. That evening, he joined other kids flocking to a field where they heard an important soldier was handing out chocolate.
"I went there with other children and took that chocolate bar from Ratko Mladic," said Alic, a lanky man with sunken eyes. "He asked me what my name was and I said 'Izudin.' I was not afraid. I was just focused on the chocolate."
Alic's grandfather had forbidden him to go, but he sneaked out of the factory where the family was hiding because he couldn't resist the chocolate.
He was devouring it with gratitude while his father, Sahzet, was being hunted down by Mladic's men in the nearby woods. His father had fled the night before along with 15,000 other Srebrenica men, moving through mountains and minefields. Mladic's troops soon caught up with them.
"He was found years ago in one of the mass graves," Alic said, flipping through a photo album showing the family in a garden in front of their home.