Bosnia `Battle Junkie': Wounded Army Sniper Longs For Front Lines

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina - A Bosnian army sniper known by the code name "Arrow" once longed for peace, "to spend a day just being bored."

Now, resting after a brush with death, the 20-year-old former journalism student who has killed more men than she cares to remember is itching to get back to the front lines.

"I'm a battle junkie," she joked as she twisted uncomfortably on her military field bed at a well-guarded base.

She was wounded in early December, hit in the back by a bullet.

"I never thought for a split-second that I was dead, but I thought my spine had gone," she said. "I was more worried that I couldn't walk and my two comrades would refuse to leave me there and they would be killed too."

She forced herself to stand and run another 250 yards to safety, after making sure one of her comrades had picked up her rifle.

After two hours in a hospital, she was moved to the base for security reasons - "in the hospital I had one guard, here I have three."

Arrow claims to be the Serb forces' third most-wanted "war criminal," after Sarajevo's special police chief Dragan Vikic and Mustafa Hajrulahovic, Bosnian army commander for Sarajevo.

One reason is that she is an ethnic Serb killing Serbs, one of thousands who have put loyalty to their besieged city before nationality. Most of her fellow fighters, first with the Bosnian army, and now with a special police unit, are Muslim and Croat.

"There's a lot of cash on my head," she said. "Whoever shot me just missed getting a fortune."

But behind the bravado, Arrow is struggling to come to terms with the war that transformed her from a fun-loving student to a trained killer.

"Since I was shot, I can't sleep, thinking that I could have been dead," she said. "The war has changed people's attitude toward death - it's come a lot closer to them, and it's not such a big deal."

But it is something that affects Arrow, who according to her commander had already killed "half a busload" of Serb fighters by June. A policeman's daughter, she grew up accustomed to guns and had once hoped to win a spot on the national shooting team.

"I don't count how many people I've killed," she said. "It makes it easier to live with."

To help her pull the trigger once she has her target - usually a Serb sniper or soldier - she still conjures images from early in the war of civilian sniper victims like an old woman or a child playing in the sand.

"I have a clear conscience; I have never shot a civilian," she said.

When first interviewed in June, three months into Bosnia's war that has killed at least 17,000, Arrow said she longed for peace.

Now, although she is not yet fit enough to fight and has doctors' orders not to walk far from bed, Arrow is already visiting her fellow soldiers on the front. "If I can't work, I'll just have to visit the troops, front after front, like a president."