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War Begins

GAGA LIVED IN ONE OF THE MANY drab, concrete apartment buildings that blight the Sarajevo neighborhood of Grbavica. The place is just a pistol shot from Sarajevo's historic center, joined by bridges over the Miljacka river.

On May 2, 1992, Bosnian Serb troops swept down into Grbavica, and prepared for an all-out assault on the city. Hundreds of civilians were killed, thousands of non-Serbs were forced to leave. It was the beginning of a campaign that became known, insidiously, as "ethnic cleansing."

A friend says Gaga initially sneered at the Serb Army's demand that all Serb men take up arms. His attitude changed quickly after a young Serb fighter shoved a pistol in his mouth and ordered him to fight or die.

At the time I was a journalist covering the collapse of Yugoslavia for the London Daily Telegraph. I was forced to report from the government-held side of Sarajevo. Gaga vanished from my view behind the front line.

I later learned that Gaga was armed with an AK-47 automatic rifle and ordered to a strategically critical apartment tower across the river from the Holiday Inn hotel, which was my base throughout the war. The gunfire I dodged constantly may have been from Gaga's weapon.

I've wondered obsessively over the years if Gaga ever made me his target. But without a scope, there's no way he could have discerned me from any other pedestrian.

The war prevented me from gathering more facts. Muslims in Grbavica were too frightened to talk, and the Serbs too angry and violent. Only after the Dayton accords and the siege ended could I move about freely. I picked up plenty of rumors, but the Serb investigators and their official reports were long-since gone.

Next: Gaga Is Dead

Images (top to bottom):
1. Survival Map of Sarajevo (Link: More detail from the map)
2. View from a snipers' nest (Link: More about snipers)

See also: Snipers' Nest video, the view of Sarajevo from an abandoned snipers' nest

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