Bosnian Serbs Accused of New Atrocities, Hiding Heavy Weapons
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ Bosnian Serbs have renewed their campaign of beating and robbing Muslim civilians, creating a new wave of refugees from the north, U.N. aid workers said Saturday.
U.N. military observers, meanwhile, reported a cache of heavy weapons was discovered in a Sarajevo suburb, in violation of a U.N. resolution barring such arms from the capital.
About 300 civilians, mostly Muslims, fled the area around Banja Luka, a Serb stronghold in northern Bosnia, late last week, said Kris Janowski of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
It was the biggest round of ethnic purges so far this year.
``We have reports about attacks with grenades, machine guns and severe beatings,″ Janowski said.
The UNHCR estimates there are only about 30,000 Muslims and Croats still living in the northern region surrounding Banja Luka, compared to a pre-war non-Serb population of more than 500,000.
Janowski recounted a Feb. 15 incident in the village of Dzuba, near Banja Luka, where three armed Serbs broke into a man’s house, beat his mother, held his baby at knifepoint and threatened to rape his wife.
``She (the wife) continued to scream while her child, who was also in the same room, cried loudly,″ Janowski said, reading from a UNHCR field report.
The Serbs stole the equivalent of $200, but ``still beat up the family afterwards,″ Janowski said.
A similar incident was repeated at a neighbor’s house.
``Before leaving the area, the bandits warned the victims that they will be back shortly,″ prompting the village’s 490 remaining Muslims to ask for U.N. evacuation, Janowski said.
``The atrocities subsided somewhat in the fall and early ’95, but now they seem to be picking up,″ Janowski said. ``These are basically the last finishing touches of `ethnic cleansing,‴ in the area.
There were other signs that Bosnia’s 4-month-old truce was breaking down.
U.N. military observers reported seeing Friday four heavy weapons stored in a warehouse in Rajlovac, a Serb-held suburb of Sarajevo, in violation of a heavy weapons exclusion zone.
A U.N. source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there were ``a considerable number of heavy weapons″ in the zone, but that only the most senior U.N. officials knew how many.
``The increase of heavy-weapons exclusion zone violations is becoming a matter of concern,″ said Maj. Herve Gourmelon, a U.N. military spokesman.
The zone was created in February 1994 under the threat of NATO airstrikes, but fear for peacekeepers’ safety has all but eliminated the use of such air power against the Serbs. So it was unclear what, if anything, could be done to force the big guns’ removal from the 12-mile exclusion zone.
Elsewhere, Bosnian Serbs told U.N. officials they were holding a Sarajevo-based journalist for use in a prisoner swap.
Shanaat Nahrawand, a Bosnian journalist with dual Jordanian citizenship, was detained Thursday at a Bosnian Serb checkpoint on the road from the U.N.-controlled Sarajevo airport to the city center.
Serbs told visiting U.N. officials Saturday they were prepared to ``swap″ her for Svetlana Boskovic, one of two ethnic Serb employees of the United Nations arrested by the Bosnian government on suspicion of spying.
Also Saturday, U.N. military flights to Sarajevo were temporarily suspended after two bullets hit a U.N. plane on approach. No one was injured, and U.N. humanitarian flights continued.
Serbs closed one of two recently opened civilian routes out of the capital after the United Nations refused to yield to demands for fuel.
Battlefronts were mostly quiet Saturday, aside from 82 detonations along the front lines in the northwest Bihac region.
Bosnia’s war began in April 1992 after Serbs rebelled against a decision by majority Croats and Muslims to secede from Yugoslavia. An estimated 200,000 people are believed missing or dead.