Serbs Turn The Screws On Sarajevo Residents
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ Bosnian Serbs are slowly turning the screws on Sarajevo’s besieged residents. Heavy gunfire is choking off the city’s only remaining commercial route, adding to the tension ahead of the pope’s planned visit.
About 150 mourners gathered Monday for the funeral of the latest victim of Serb attacks on Mt. Igman road. Sead Karic died Friday when his car was hit by anti-aircraft machine gun fire.
Over the past month, there have been almost daily injuries on the winding dirt track. A British aid convoy was attacked over the weekend, the latest blow to efforts to bring humanitarian supplies into the capital.
Many locals, incensed by the near stranglehold after months of precious access to and from the city blame the United Nations for lack of action.
″I listened to Gen. (Michael) Rose when he claimed that Sarajevo is ’de- blocked,‴ said Sedik Dervisevic, alluding to the U.N. commander in Bosnia. ″But it’s a classical concentration camp.″
Serbs fired on his car on the Igman road as he was driving down with his family Saturday.
Serbs in July cut a stretch of 800 yards across Sarajevo runway used by civilians getting in and out of the city. As a result, prices have quadrupled in recent weeks and are expected to soar further as stocks run out.
What supplies have trickled through have passed down the Igman road. It leads into a Sarajevo suburb, from where people with the right papers - mostly U.N. workers and journalists - can go over a special U.N. route that crosses the airport to the rest of the city. Locals are forced underground through a narrow tunnel under the airport.
However, U.N. humanitarian convoys stopped using the Igman route early August after a British soldier was killed and one wounded by Serb fire.
U.N. aid now has to reach the capital through Serb-held territory. Officials complain about Serb demands that they should be given one-third of food convoys as a ″tax″ for passage. And Serbs have blocked attempts to send in fuel convoys by demanding half the cargo.
The only alternative to land routes is the airlift. But this is vulnerable to attack and was last suspended in August because of gunfire hitting aircraft. The Serbs are now threatening to target planes arriving too early or too late.
They also exercise the right of veto on who flies in. For example, a planned visit by U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry was canceled after Serbs warned they could not guarantee security.
The same warnings have been uttered in connection with Pope John Paul II’s planned visit Thursday. Fearing potential violence, the Vatican is still undecided on whether to cancel the trip.
The Igman road lies close to the airport and so artillery fire from that area poses an added risk.
″Potentially any weapon in that (airport area) is a threat to the pope’s plane,″ said a U.N. spokesman, Cmdr. Eric Chaperon. ″We are trying to convince the Bosnian Serb side to cooperate for the visit of the pope.″