Family in Bosnia Recalls Utah Gunman
Thursday, February 15, 2007; 3:21 PM
TALOVICI, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- Relatives of the Bosnian teen who shot and killed five people in a Salt Lake City mall said the boy's early life was marked by war and upheaval: The family fled Serb forces on foot when he was 4 and his grandfather was killed in the war.
Sulejman Talovic was a toddler when fighting broke out in Bosnia in 1992. Serb troops laid siege to the hamlet of Talovici in northeastern Bosnia, bombing it for a year before overrunning his home village in March 1993.
"We were besieged and bombed day and night. We couldn't stick our noses out of the house," Talovic's cousin, Redzo Talovic, 59, recalled Thursday.
"At first we all hid from the shells, but later we gave up on life, didn't care and started coming out. That's how ... the shelling killed 20 people in the village," he said.
Young Sulejman, his three siblings, his mother Sabira and grandfather made the difficult journey on foot to Srebrenica, while his father, Suljo, hid in the mountains with other men from the village, relatives said.
"Many left the village, only a few made it," said Murat Avdic, 54, a family friend.
Srebrenica was besieged, bombed and crowded with hungry Muslim families like the Talovics. One of the bombs killed Sulejman's grandfather.
"Those were really nice people, never argued with anybody about anything. During the war, they shared the little food they had with others," said Sefko Talovic, 59, a distant relative. "His father helped other injured people flee when the village fell, although he himself was injured too," he said.
Later that year, Sabira Talovic and the four children were among the displaced rescued by the U.N. They made their way to the government-controlled town of Tuzla, impoverished but safe.
"I remember they arrived in 1993 on an overloaded U.N. truck and settled here in an empty house the owner had left," said former neighbor Zijad Cerkic.
"They were very poor, they had lost everything, but they were very nice and quiet people," Cerkic said, recalling the young Sulejman as "a good child, always with a smile on his face."
Sulejman's father narrowly survived the 1995 massacre in Srebrenica of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys by Serb forces loyal to then-Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic. The massacre of civilians was Europe's worst since World War II.