PROHICI, Bosnia-Herzegovina — The video horrified the world: a grinning Ratko Mladic patting a young Muslim boy on the head and assuring him everyone in the Srebrenica area would be safe — just hours before overseeing the murder of 8,000 men and boys.
The boy in the video is now a 24-year-old man. He clearly recalls the sunny day in July 1995 when he met the Bosnian Serb military commander who gave him chocolate.
"I was 8 and I didn't know what was going on or who Ratko Mladic was," Izudin Alic told the Associated Press on Tuesday.
Mladic, 69, was captured last week by Serbian intelligence agents after 16 years on the run.
In 1995, Alic was among thousands of Bosnian Muslims who fled to the Srebrenica area seeking the protection of U.N. troops. That July evening, he joined other kids in a field after they heard an important soldier was handing out chocolate.
"I went there with other children and took that chocolate bar from Ratko Mladic," said Alic, a lanky man. "He asked me what my name was and I said, 'Izudin.' I was not afraid. I was just focused on the chocolate."
He was devouring it with gratitude while his father, Sahzet, was being hunted down by Mladic's men in the nearby woods. His father had fled the night before along with 15,000 other Srebrenica men, moving through mountains and minefields. Mladic's troops soon caught them.
"He was found years ago in one of the mass graves," Alic said, flipping through a photo album showing the family in a garden in front of their home.
The video that captured Mladic patting Alic on the head generated worldwide revulsion because of the contrast between the Mladic's feigned benevolence and the reality of the massacre to come.
In the video, Mladic asked Alic his age, and Alic responded, "Twelve." Alic said he lied to appear older, not realizing the risks. The youngest known Srebrenica victim was 14.
The whereabouts of the boy in the video have been a mystery for years, even though he clearly stated his name in the footage as Izudin.
The AP began searching for him last week after Mladic's capture. A break came when the AP came across young men who claimed to have been among the children given chocolate by Mladic. They identified the boy from the video as Alic, a Bosnian Muslim in the village of Prohici — and AP found him there.
Alic and his family — his mother, two sisters and grandfather — later settled in Prohici, just outside Srebrenica.
He works as a construction worker and makes sandwiches at a fast-food stand. He often prays at his father's grave in the town's memorial center, where thousands of Mladic's victims — unearthed from mass graves — were finally laid to rest.
For Alic and his family, some solace came last week when Mladic was captured in a village north of Belgrade.
"I was glad," Alic said. "He should get the biggest sentence possible. He killed my father, my uncle and so many of our people."