SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina – Sunny Sarajevo was in festive mood on June 28, 1914 for the visit of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand. But it was to be a dark day, and one that changed the world.
By 11 o'clock, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire would be dead, an assassination that plunged Europe into four years of horrific conflict that killed millions. "There were flags everywhere; the whole city was covered with flags. As children, we had to stand in the front," one witness told Austrian radio in 1994 for the 80th anniversary.
Armed with bombs and guns and blending into the crowd along the archduke's route were half a dozen Bosnian Serb nationalists bent on freedom from Austro-Hungarian rule. The night before the group had been partying in Sarajevo cafes and Gavrilo Princip, the sallow-faced 19-year-old who would shoot the archduke and his wife, even had a date with a young girl called Jelena Jezdimirovic.
"They decided to have an 'ordinary' evening, not to hide, in order not to attract attention," Bosnian historian Slobodan Soja told AFP. Franz Ferdinand, resplendent in military tunic and plumed hat and in the region for army exercises, was in an open-topped car with reduced police protection on his way to city hall.
The first three militants, paralysed with fear, let the motorcade pass but a fourth, Nedeljko Cabrinovic, was able to lob a bomb -- which bounced off the archduke's car and exploded under the vehicle behind. Unharmed, the archduke sped on to his destination, angrily saying in his speech: "I came to visit you and they throw bombs on me!"