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From Bihac Comes A Sadly Familiar Air Of Desperation, Abandonment With PM-Yugoslavia

November 24, 1994

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ From the besieged ″safe area″ of Bihac, the voice of ham radio operator Mirza Sadikovic reflects the desperation of those who feel betrayed and abandoned by the international community.

″There are more and more casualties, a lot of them children,″ Sadikovic told The Associated Press by radio Wednesday as Serb forces closed in on the U.N.-declared safe zone.

″These days the streets are empty in Bihac,″ he said. ″The people are in shelters except for the refugees from villages closer to the border with Croatia. They are the only people wandering up and down the street. There is no life for them.″

With Bihac unapproachable because of heavy fighting, it is impossible to independently verify Sadikovic’s comments. But his description bears a chilling familiarity.

His words are virtually the same as those uttered in the past by radio operators in Bosnian towns such as Srebrenica, Gorazde and Zepa. Like Bihac, they have come under siege by Bosnian Serb forces during the 2 1/2 -year war.

For the other cities, cease-fires were arranged at the last moment and some people were spared. Each time a town emerged from siege, statements from United Nations and others gave hope that this would be the last.

But the war continues.

And the only change is in the name of the town under siege.

In a conference call with foreign reporters, Bihac Mayor Handija Kabiljajic described a desperate struggle of outmanned defenders against 18,000 Serb attackers.

Kabiljajic, speaking by satellite phone from a bunker near city hall, said central Bihac was being attacked from two sides, with one battle line 150 yards from the regional hospital.

″There are wounded and dead in the street. Shells are falling as we speak,″ said Kabiljajic.

″I’m sad to say I don’t know how much longer we’ll be able to hold on if there’s no help,″ he said. ″I hope the world will pay attention to what is happening here. People are fighting for their lives and the world should come to their aid in the name of democracy and humanity.″

During his brief radio transmission, Sadikovic appeared excited that he had been called by an international news organization. He was anxious to talk after making sure the caller was not British.

″Bihac does not want to talk to any British person,″ said a Sarajevo radio operator who arranged the call. Many Bosnians blame the British, especially U.N. commander Lt. Gen. Sir Michael Rose, for the international community’s failure to act decisively against Bosnian Serbs.

″There are too many wounded. There is no space,″ Sadikovic said of his town’s hospital. ″Surgeons are operating on the floors of the hospital without any anesthetic. Shelling goes on at the very center of the city.″

As the transmission ended, Sadikovic asked that someone call again, just to assure them the town had not been forgotten.

″Thank you for your effort and interest,″ he said respectfully. ″Please stay in touch.″

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