(SERBIA) Branislav Kapetanovic (born 1965) lost both hands and feet when a BLU 97 submunition exploded when he was going to destroy it at an airstrip in Serbia November 9, 2000. Branislav was a deminer working for the Army and cleared thousands of submunitions after the NATO bombing before one of them finally exploded. (Photo: Ivan Petrovic/Norwegian People's Aid)
Two months before the NATO air campaign against Serbia in 1999, Branislav received special training in cluster bomb disposal. During the campaign and in the course of one year after, he was working on cluster clearance in almost all affected areas – Kursumlija, Kraljevo, Sjenica, Nis.
On November 9, 2000, Branislav was accompanying a group of engineers visiting Dubinje airport in Sjenica. Their job was to make an estimate of the damages to the airport facilities. Six new cluster bomblets were reported seen above surface. He didn’t want to postpone the disposal of the duds, so he went to the marked location. The first one that he came close to exploded. Both of his arms and legs had to be amputated. He suffered cardiac arrest upon arrival to the hospital. His eyes were damaged by the explosion, so he was completely blind for five months after the event. He spent four years at a medical facility in rehabilitation. One of his eyes is still seriously damaged and his left ear is not functional. Presently, he lives in Belgrade, coping by himself. He received the status of a civilian war victim, since the accident took place after the war and the current provisions within the Army couldn’t provide for the status of a war veteran. His greatest wish is to see cluster munitions banned, and he is now active in the Cluster Munition Coalition.
“Cluster bombs present a greater danger for the civilian population than for the Army or “enemy” installations, they affect wide areas and continue to affect them for many, many years; I don’t expect anybody to be surprised by what happened to me – it was my duty, my job, but the majority of the people in the world being injured by these bombs are innocent civilians, a large percentage of them unknowing children.”