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Bosnian-Born Shooter Fled War as a Child

Bosnian-Born Shooter Fled War as a Child



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SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) -- The Bosnia-born teen who killed five shoppers at a mall in Utah fled the war in his homeland as a child, neighbors and friends said Wednesday.

Sulejman Talovic, an 18-year-old fatally shot by police after Monday's rampage, was only 4 when he and his mother fled their village of Talovici on foot after Serb forces overran it in 1993, people close to the family told The Associated Press.

Talovic lived as a refugee in Bosnia from 1993 to 1998, when his family moved to the United States, they said.

During that period, he spent some time in Srebrenica, the northeastern enclave where up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered in 1995 by Serb forces loyal to late ex-Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic. It was Europe's worst massacre of civilians since World War II.

Talovic left Srebrenica two years before the massacre, but acquaintances suggested it may have left an indelible mark on the quiet little boy they knew.

"That's why I'm convinced the war did this in Utah," said Murat Avdic, a friend of the family. "There cannot be any other reason."

Avdic, 54, said that when the village of Talovici fell, the family split up.

"Sulejman and his mother walked to Srebrenica, and from there were later evacuated by a U.N. convoy," he said.

"Suljo, the father, headed over the mountains and forests with his comrades as well. Many left the village, but only a few made it."

Avdic described the family as "very normal, very decent and quiet."

Sulejman "arrived in 1993 from Srebrenica on an overloaded U.N. truck full of women and children," said Zijad Cerkic, 33, the family's next-door neighbor in government-controlled Tuzla.

The father arrived two years later, in 1995, barely escaping the Srebrenica massacre.

"They were poor. They had lost everything," Cerkic said.

A 1995 peace agreement ended the war but left their native Talovici in the Serb-controlled half of the country to which the family did not dare return.

"We know they ended up in the United States. We never saw them again. It was a wonderful family," Cerkic said.

Apart from eight elderly returnees, Talovici village has been a virtual ghost town since 1993. All but two houses are in ruins, including the home of Sulejman's family, said former neighbor Adem Huric, 38.

Up to 200,000 people were killed and 1.8 million others lost their homes in Bosnia's 1992-1995 war.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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