PROHICI, Bosnia-Herzegovina - The video horrified the world: a grinning Ratko Mladic patting a young Muslim boy on the head and assuring him that 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 24. 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 said Tuesday in an exclusive interview.
Mladic, 69, was captured last week by Serbian intelligence agents after 16 years on the run. On Tuesday, after judges in Belgrade rejected his appeal to delay his transfer on grounds of ill health, he was flown to the Netherlands and placed in a U.N. detention unit at the Hague to await trial on genocide charges. It was unclear when he would make an initial appearance before the war-crimes tribunal, but it must be within a few days.
In 1995, Alic was among thousands of Bosnian Muslims who fled to the Srebrenica area seeking protection from U.N. troops. That July evening, he joined other children flocking to a field where they heard that 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 with sunken eyes. "He asked me what my name was and I said 'Izudin.' I was not afraid. I was just focused on the chocolate."
Alic's grandfather had forbidden him to go, but he sneaked out of the factory where the family was hiding because he couldn't resist the lure of chocolate.
He was devouring it with gratitude while his father, Sahzet, was being hunted down by Mladic's men in nearby woods. His father had fled the night before along with 15,000 other Srebrenica males, moving through mountains and minefields. Mladic's troops soon caught up with them.
"He was found years ago in one of the mass graves," Alic said.
The video that captured Mladic patting Alic on the head generated worldwide revulsion because of the contrast between the commander's feigned benevolence and the reality of the massacre to come. Mladic paraded among Bosnian refugees, smilingly promising evacuation with his soldiers handing out chocolate to children.
In the video, Mladic asked Alic his age, and Alic responded, "Twelve." He says he lied to appear older, not realizing the risks. The youngest known Srebrenica victim was 14.
The whereabouts of the boy in the video had been a mystery for years, even though he clearly stated his name in the footage as Izudin. Some thought he was dead, others that he had emigrated. The AP began searching for him last week after Mladic's capture.
A break came when the AP came across a group of young men who said they had been among the children given chocolate by Mladic. They identified the boy as Alic, a Bosnian Muslim in the village of Prohici, and AP tracked him down there.
He and his mother, Fatima, showed a reporter family photo albums of Alic as a boy bearing a striking resemblance to the youth in the video. He also was shown the famous video and identified himself as the youth patted on the head by Mladic.
Alic earns a living working in construction and making 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.