Since the Aug. 10 release of the classified spy-satellite
photos of Nova Kasaba graves, UN officials had pressed the US to turn
over all other evidence of mass graves to the UN War Crimes Tribunal.
For political reasons, the US had refused. The Boston Globe had
reported that there were additional graves and other sources had suspected
it, but no one had yet confirmed their existence. But that was not Rohde's
mission at that point.
Having verified Milosovic was complicit in the mass executions
at Nova Kasaba, Rohde went back to his intelligence source to follow
up on the peacekeeper story. He had no plans to go back behind the enemy
lines to track down additional graves. During the interview about peacekeepers,
however, Rohde's intelligence source leaked the exact locations of four
more graves and gave him a map. Rohde felt his stomach knot up, but
he knew he had to go find the graves.
It was an exceedingly dangerous mission. Since no car
with local plates -- Muslim or Serbian -- was safe, Rohde rented a car
in Austria. To do get through the numerous checkpoints, he had to change
the dates on his press accreditation. A scrupulously professional journalist,
Rohde decided that the story justified a foray into a gray area of journalistic
Rohde did not ask his editors for permission to go back
into the area, because he assumed it might be denied. Instead, he sent
to Faye Bowers and Foreign Editor Clay Jones on Oct. 28 indicating that
he was headed back behind enemy lines, sending it so that she would
receive it after it was too late to stop him. Balancing risk with pragmatism,
Rohde had the foresight to include the make and license number of his
car, the telephone number of Kit Roane, his roommate in Sarajevo, and
other details that would help to locate him if he did not return to
Sarajevo on schedule.
On Oct. 29, Rohde re-entered Bosnian Serb territory. Unwilling
to draw others into the danger that attended such an investigation,
Rohde made the mistake of travelling alone. The New York Times
and The Washington Post were hot on the trail of the story as
well, and he did not want to provide the opportunity for a larger paper
to break it.
At Sahinici, Rohde found evidence to corroborate the accounts
of five Muslim execution survivors. Three walking canes and a stack
of civilian clothes were just one hundred yards from two freshly dug
mass graves. Rohde photographed human bones near an earthen dam. Seconds
from escaping triumphantly over the Drina River with uncontrovertible
proof of killings, Rohde was spotted by a plain clothes Serb watchman
with a guard dog who arrested him and took him to the local jail.