NATO Strikes to Punish Serbs for Failure to Withdraw
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ Faced with the stubborn silence of Bosnian Serb leaders, NATO sent its warplanes back over Bosnia today to attack the rebels for refusing to remove heavy weapons and ease the siege of Sarajevo.
There was no indication the Serbs were backing down, and only silence from their leaders. U.N. officials speculated the lack of response could be a sign of disarray.
Bad weather cut short NATO bombing raids Tuesday, and the skies were still cloudy over Sarajevo today. But Adm. Leighton Smith, commander of NATO forces in southern Europe, said: ``We have been able to get strikes into Bosnia early this morning.″
``We have plenty of targets, we have plenty of work left to do,″ he told a news conference in Naples, Italy. Smith said reports indicated ``very successful results″ from today’s attacks, but he did not give details.
Bosnian Serb police sources in the Serb stronghold, Pale, said the targets were installations near military headquarters in Han Pijesak, 30 miles northeast of Sarajevo, and in Kalinovik, 25 miles south of the city.
Later, the Bosnian Serb military reported raids on Foca, Nevesinje and Cajnice in southern Bosnia.
After a four-day hiatus, NATO attacks resumed Tuesday because the Bosnian Serbs failed to comply with a NATO and U.N. demand that heavy weapons be withdrawn at least 12 1/2 miles from Sarajevo. A late Monday night deadline went unheeded.
Other conditions for ending the strikes include opening Sarajevo’s airport and land routes into the city, ending attacks on safe areas including Sarajevo and allowing free movement for the United Nations and aid workers.
Bosnian Serb military commander Gen. Ratko Mladic, whose refusal to ease his grip on Sarajevo led to the airstrikes, is from the Kalinovik area.
``We gather he’s in a defiant mood,″ U.N. spokesman Alexander Ivanko said of Mladic. ``But we hope this mood will change and he will start complying with our demands.″
Ivanko said the United Nations has had no contact with Mladic. A split between the Bosnian Serb military and political leadership could explain ``why orders coming from one end are not being followed through the other end,″ Ivanko said.
On Monday, a senior aide to Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic basically accepted the U.N. demands, but hours later Mladic rejected them.
One Bosnian Serb source close to the Pale leadership reported late Tuesday that a serious split had arisen between Mladic on one side and Karadzic and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic on the other. That could signal a shift in the Serb power structure, since Mladic recently had been allied with the powerful Serbian president against Karadzic.
Meanwhile, there was virtually no movement of Bosnian Serb heavy weapons around Sarajevo. U.N. military spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Vernon said only one of about 300 weapons was seen moving at all on Tuesday.
Mladic apparently fears that if he removes his weaponry, his troops will be vulnerable to attack by government forces.
Today, Bosnian Serb TV showed footage it said was shot the previous day of several tanks and armored personnel carriers attempting to leave the exclusion zone. They were being blocked by women and children. ``If they leave, who will defend us?″ shouted one woman.
NATO showed film of hits by U.S. and French aircraft on several Bosnian Serb targets on Tuesday. Film showed communications command-and-control centers and ammunition depots hit by laser-guided bombs and going up in huge clouds of smoke. The attacks were on Mount Jahorina south of Sarajevo, Visegrad and Han Pijesak to the east, Hadzici to the west, and a target near Sarajevo.
Smith said more than 1,500 sorties had been flown since last Wednesday, when NATO first took to the skies in the current campaign. That came two days after a mortar shell landed in the center of Sarajevo and killed 38 people.
In Moscow, lawmakers called an emergency session of parliament for Saturday to denounce NATO airstrikes on the Bosnian Serbs and the Kremlin’s inability to prevent them.
They said they will urge President Boris Yeltsin to unilaterally lift sanctions against former Yugoslavia, and will discuss whether Russia should withdraw from NATO’s Partnership for Peace program.
Despite the renewed airstrikes and combat on the ground, Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke pursued his diplomatic shuttle ahead of talks in Geneva on Friday involving the foreign ministers of Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Croatia.
Holbrooke met for 2 1/2 hours today with Croatian President Franjo Tudjman in Zagreb.
The U.S. plan would give the Serbs 49 percent of Bosnia compared to the nearly 70 percent they now hold, and a Bosnian Croat and Muslim federation the rest. The Bosnian war has left at least 200,000 people dead or missing since April 1992.