Image: Mevludin Oric
Amel Emric  /  AP
Bosnian Muslim Mevludin Oric and his daughter Merima visit the execution ground, a meadow surrounded by a forest, in the village of Krizevci near the eastern Bosnian town of Zvornik, on Thursday.
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updated 6/3/2011 4:51:10 PM ET 2011-06-03T20:51:10

The hardest part was the ants. They crawled over his arms and legs, over his face and into his mouth, hour by hour as he pretended to be dead in a pile of corpses slowly turning stiff.

Mevludin Oric lay for nine hours in one of the Srebrenica killing fields where Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic's troops executed 8,000 Muslim men and boys in July 1995. He escaped in the dead of night, after the soldiers had satisfied themselves that everyone in the sea of bodies was dead.

On Thursday, Oric returned for the first time to the execution ground — a pretty V-shaped meadow surrounded by a forest — with Associated Press journalists to share his feelings about the capture of the man who orchestrated Europe's worst carnage since World War II.

He brought his eldest daughter, 17-year-old Merima. He wanted her to know what happened here — he wants everyone to know, vowing to testify against Mladic at the U.N. war crimes tribunal in the Hague, Netherlands.

"I can't wait to look into the eyes of that animal," said the lanky 42-year-old, his eyes lighting up after a morning spent on the verge of tears.

Serbia extradited Mladic to the Netherlands on Tuesday to face genocide charges; he was arrested last week in a village north of Belgrade after 16 years on the run.

Story: Ratko Mladic describes charges as 'obnoxious,' 'monstrous'

Oric, a Bosnian Muslim soldier captured by Serbs as he fled through the woods, is one of four men known to have survived the Srebrenica massacre. All endured the unspeakable ordeal of playing dead while Serb troops patrolled the blood-soaked field, finishing off anybody who showed signs of life with a pistol shot to the head.

Ants bit Oric as they prowled his body, but he didn't dare move. Nearby, an old man begged for his life: "Children, we didn't do anything. Don't do this to us." He, too, was shot.

On top of Oric was his dead cousin Hars. In the execution line, Hars took Oric's hand and whispered: "They'll kill us all." When the gunfire erupted, Oric threw himself to the ground, as Hars fell over him, groaning in agony.

At one point, Oric saw a Serb soldier walk in his direction. The soldier paused to shoot a man in the head, then continued walking toward Oric. It's my turn, he thought.

"I closed my eyes," Oric said, looking at Merima, "and I thought about you and your mother. And for a few seconds before the expected shot, I wondered what it is like in heaven, or in hell."

The shot never came. But it would be hours more before Oric would be free.

As he toured the meadow Thursday, Oric deciphered its grim geography: "This is where I lay... This is where the pit was..."

"This here is soaked with blood," he said. "I should have been here. But destiny..." His voice trailed off.

"I would like to cry," said the construction worker, who lives with his mother and three daughters in central Bosnia. "But there's something in my throat that doesn't allow me to cry."

Image: Mevludin Oric
Amel Emric  /  AP
Mevludin Oric speaks to The Associated Press at his house in the village of Podlugovi near Sarajevo.

Close to midnight, the shooting stopped and the Serbs left. Oric's arms and legs were numb, but he managed to shake off his cousin's body and stand up. Moonlight shone over the field of bodies; he saw a shadow approach.

"It was the shadow of a man like a ghost" he said. "First I thought it was a soldier left to stand guard."

But it was Hurem Suljic, a Bosnian Muslim bricklayer with a bum leg who had also survived. Suljic got closer and asked, "Are you wounded?" Oric said no.

Looking around, they saw others still alive but destined to die from rifle wounds. One man had a gash in his side exposing his kidney. "Can you give me a jacket?" he pleaded, "I'm cold." Oric took a jacket from a dead man and gave it to him.

Oric saw another man crawling on his arms, dragging behind his bullet-riddled legs. "Run, brother," the man said. "Don't mind me. I won't make it."

Oric and Suljic stepped over corpses and headed into the forest. The journey was hard because of Suljic's bad leg. At times, Oric said, he had to carry the older man on his back. Four days later, they crossed a mine field at the front line and were met by Bosnian soldiers.

Before the trip back to Srebrenica, Oric took Merima to the school gymnasium where he and hundreds of other Bosnian Muslim captives had been held by Serb forces before the massacre.

Oric said Mladic was there too on that day, inspecting the prisoners minutes before they were loaded onto trucks and driven to the execution ground. Suljic has given similar testimony.

In the school gym, the Muslim men were told they would be part of a prisoner swap. But the men had doubts because they heard gunfire all around.

As Oric and his daughter toured the grounds, people in surrounding houses in the Serb-dominated area called out.

"Let Mladic go!" they yelled.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: The charges against Ratko Mladic

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  1. Bosnian Serb army commander General Ratko Mladic inspecting troops in the eastern Bosnian town of Vlasenica on Dec. 2, 1995. Mladic, one of the world's most wanted men, was arrested on May 26, 2011 and faces charges of genocide and war crimes at the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands. (Oleg Stjepanovic / AP, file) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Citizens sprint across 'Sniper Alley' during the siege of Sarajevo in 1994. Mladic's forces besieged the city for 43 months, during which time an estimated 10,000 people were killed. (Tom Stoddart / Getty Images, file) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. A man supports the head of a Bosnian Muslim woman as she is transported to hospital in the back of a car. She was badly injured by Serbian mortar shelling of Sarajevo on June 27, 1992. (Christophe Simon / AFP - Getty Images, file) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Ratko Mladic pats one of his soldiers on the cheek at the Lukavica barracks on the outskirts of Sarajevo on Feb. 15, 1994. (Pascal Guyot / AFP - Getty Images, file) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. The feet of a 10 year old Bosnian Muslim boy, Elvedin Sendo, clad in grass-stained running shoes and marked with his name tag, protrude from under a blanket at a hospital morgue after his school came under a shelling attack in Sarajevo on March 22, 1993. (Chris Helgren / Reuters, file) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Bosnian Serb wartime leader, Radovan Karadzic, second right, and his general Ratko Mladic, first left, walk accompanied by bodyguards on the Mount Vlasic front line on April 15, 1995. Karadzic was arrested on July 21, 2008, and extradicted to The Hague. (Sava Radovanovic / AP, file) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Evacuees from Srebrenica look out from a U.N. truck in Medgas, north of Sarajevo, as a convoy carrying evacuees from the besieged Bosnian town made its way to Tuzla on March 20, 1993. (Michel Euler / AP, file) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. A group of Bosnian Muslims, refugees from Srebrenica, walk from the village of Potocari to Muslim-held territory near Olovo on July 13, 1995. (Reuters, file) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Ratko Mladic, left, drinks a toast with Dutch U.N. Commander Tom Karremans, second right, in the village of Potocari, 3 miles from Srebrenica, on July 12, 1995. Mladic is accused of orchestrating the methodical slaughter of up to 8,000 Muslims from the "safe area" of Srebrenica, in the worst massacre in Europe since World War II. (AP, file) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Bosnian refugees from Srebrenica cry over their missing men in a refugee camp at Tuzla airport on July 14, 1995. (Wade Goddard / Reuters, file) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Evacuees from Srebrenica board a U.N. truck to be taken to a refugee camp at Tuzla on July 15, 1995. (Reuters, file) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Grieving women at a refugee center set up to shelter Muslim families after they fled Srebrenica. Over a period of five days the Bosnian Serb army took control of the small spa town and separated Muslim men from their families. Over 8,000 men and boys were systematically murdered in the fields and valleys around the town. (Tom Stoddart / Getty Images, file) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Forensic experts from the international war crimes tribunal in the Hague work to uncover a pile of partly decomposed bodies on July 24, 1996. The mass grave was found in the village of Pilica and was believed to contain the remains of some of the missing men from Srebrenica. (Odd Andersen / AFP - Getty Images, file) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Bosnian pathologist Rifat Kesetovic examines skulls of victims in a hospital in Tuzla on March 28, 1997. The remains were found in mass graves and in wooded areas following the 1995 massacre in Srebrenica. (Reuters, file) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Bosnian Muslim clerics pray during a ceremony in Potocari on July 11, 2001. Thousands of Bosnian Muslims returned to Srebrenica to inaugurate a memorial on the sixth anniversary of the massacre. (Damir Sagolj / Reuters, file) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A forensic expert with the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) holds a photograph found with remains of a victim of the Srebrenica massacre, in the Bosnian town of Tuzla on July 7, 2005. (Damir Sagolj / Reuters, file) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Two women cry over a coffin on July 10, 2005 in a factory hall in Potocari where the remains of 610 victims of Srebrenica massacre awaited burial. Their bodies were found in some 60 mass graves around the town, and a mass funeral was held on the tenth anniversary of the massacre. (Damir Sagolj / Reuters, file) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. People carrying Bosnian flags pass by a destroyed house during the second day of a march to Srebrenica on July 8, 2006. Hundreds of Bosnians undertook a four-day march along the route survivors used 11 years earlier to escape the killings in Srebrenica. (Amel Emric / AP, file) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. A home video obtained by Bosnian television and broadcast in 2009 shows Ratko Mladic, center, attending a party at an unknown location while he was a fugitive. For most of his years at large, Mladic managed to live discreetly but safely in Belgrade, relying on loyal supporters who consider him a war hero, not a war criminal. (AFP - Getty Images, file) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. A photograph of Mladic taken in Belgrade after his arrest on May 26, 2011. (Politika via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. A police car drives by the house, on left, where Ratko Mladic was found in the village of Lazarevo, about 50 kilometers north of Belgrade, Serbia on May 28, 2011. Mladic was arrested at the house two days earlier after 16 years on the run. (Vadim Ghirda / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Pro-Mladic demonstrators are engulfed by smoke from flares during a support rally in Belgrade on May 29, 2011. To many Serbs, Mladic remains a national hero. (Vadim Ghirda / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. A forensic expert from the International Commission for Missing Persons (ICMP) works on trying to identify the remains of a victim of the Srebrenica massacre, at the ICMP centre near Tuzla on June 1, 2011. (Dado Ruvic / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Ratko Mladic salutes as he takes his seat in the International Criminal Tribunal where he faces war crime charges on June 3, 2011 in The Hague, Netherlands. (Serge Ligtenberg / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Bosnian Muslim women, survivors of the Srebrenica massacre, watch the live broadcast of Ratko Mladic's appearance before the international tribunal, in Potocari, near Srebrenica, on June 3, 2011. The 69-year-old is accused of masterminding the Srebrenica massacre - the only episode of the Bosnian war officially established as a genocide - and the siege of Sarajevo. (Elvis Barukcic / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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Timeline: Ratko Mladic

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