Related topics

Sarajevo Shelled, Tension High in ‘Safe Areas’

July 23, 1995

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ Rebel Serbs fired rockets into Sarajevo and shelled the eastern enclave of Zepa on Saturday. Croatia said it would help Bosnian soldiers, setting the stage for a wider war encompassing both republics.

Two mortar shells hit a U.N. compound in suburban Sarajevo late Saturday, wounding a Dutch soldier and two French soldiers, according to the United Nations.

Islamic countries indicated they would send weapons to the Muslim-led government forces, saying they regard the U.N. weapons embargo on former Yugoslavia as invalid.

Croatia’s President Franjo Tudjman, after meeting with Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic, promised ``urgent military assistance,″ especially to Bosnian soldiers around northwestern Bihac.

Tudjman’s statement apparently meant his government felt free to attack rebel Serbs in Croatia, who have been helping Serbs across the border in Bosnia.

That would let Croatia to resume an offensive against its rebel Serbs who captured nearly a third of the country’s territory in a 1991 war. Croatia retook some of that territory in May, before bowing to world pressure and stopping its blitz.

Tudjman’s statement also served notice that the two countries would expel the U.N. force if it didn’t end its ``inefficiency″ in Bosnia and ``delay in implementing its mission″ in Croatia _ references to demands for U.N. troops to stop Serb attacks and restore Croatian government control over rebel-held territory.

Permission for the U.N. troops to operate expires in Croatia in September and in Bosnia in November.

U.N. officials reported a buildup of Croatian troops near a buffer zone separating them from rebel Serbs in central Croatia, across the border from Bihac, Saturday.

Tension was high in Bihac, a ``safe area″ where days of fighting has killed several people, wounded scores and left thousands homeless, according to U.N. and aid officials. They reported 150 explosions Saturday in Kamanac in the Bihac area.

In Sarajevo, Serbs blasted the capital with 122 mm rocket launchers, said U.N. spokesman Lt. Col. Gerard Dubois. Serbs only sporadically have used the weapon, much more powerful than mortars, he said.

One person was killed and two others wounded, the Bosnian Health Ministry reported.

Saturday evening, two mortar shells hit the Danish U.N. camp in the Sarajevo suburb of Zetra, wounding a Danish soldier and two French soldiers, said Maj. Michael Pavlosinski, a U.N. spokesman in Zagreb, Croatia.

One of the French soldiers was in serious condition, Pavlosinski said. He said it wasn’t known who fired the shells and the attack, which occurred at about 10:20 p.m., was under investigation.

Serbs also shelled the ``safe area″ of Zepa and exchanged gunfire with government soldiers on the southern edge of the enclave _ about 20 hamlets scattered in mountains east of Sarajevo.

Bosnian Radio reported three mortar rounds hit the local hospital and 11 civilians were wounded in attacks that continued all day Saturday. U.N. spokesman Lt. Col Gary Coward said he had no new reports on the fighting.

Serbs claimed three days ago that Zepa had fallen. But Muslim forces have refused to surrender, leaving the fate of 10,000 to 16,000 civilians in doubt.

The Serb rebels have refused to let a U.N. team into Zepa to negotiate the evacuation of wounded people, women, children and the elderly. But Coward said a senior U.N. official was heading to Zepa again Saturday night to try to talk to the Serbs about the evacuation.

Serbs want to hold all Muslim men aged 18 to 55 in order to trade them for prisoners of war, a demand rejected by the Bosnian army.

The Bosnian government also is afraid of atrocities by the Serbs. After the ``safe area″ of Srebrenica was captured July 11, refugees told of mass killings of men and the rape of young women.

The Western allies warned the Bosnian Serbs on Friday against attacking Gorazde, the last eastern ``safe area″ still firmly in government hands.

Gorazde was quiet Saturday, and has been quiet for the last few days although Bosnian Radio talked of shelling, Coward said Saturday night.

The Western leaders made no formal mention of Zepa, Sarajevo, Bihac and Tuzla _ the other ``safe areas″ _ but French and German officials promised extra protection of all areas.

``The Western states will not allow Serbs to treat people from other safe areas as fair game,″ German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel told the Cologne Express newspaper for Sunday editions. ``This is particularly true for Sarajevo.″

Rebel Serbs on Saturday called the Western decision Friday pro-Muslim and noted that government forces have used ``safe areas″ to stage attacks on Serbs. But the criticism was softly worded, indicating that the NATO threat was not considered major by the Serbs.

A statement carried by the Bosnian Serb Press Bureau in Belgrade said, ``The Serb side is deeply disappointed by the results of the conference and the biased approach of the international community in favor of the Muslims.″

In Geneva, representatives of Islamic countries announced Saturday that they consider the U.N. arms embargo against Bosnia invalid.

Some members, notably Iran, reportedly have been violating the embargo for some time, but during the Geneva meeting Bosnian Foreign Minister Muhamed Sacirbey said he had received specific commitments from some countries. He refused to name them.

The United States on Saturday issued a warning to its citizens to avoid travel to the republic, ``because of the potential for rapid changes in the security situation there.″

The State Department also issued a new travel warning for Americans in Bosnia, emphasizing that the NATO threat ``raises the possibility of renewed hostage-taking by Bosnian Serb forces.″

Update hourly