Heavy Fire in Bosnian Capital Shuts Out Pope’s Visit
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ Bosnian Serbs fired nearly a dozen artillery rounds near Sarajevo on Tuesday in the most serious violation to date of NATO’s ban on heavy weapons around the capital.
U.N. officials also reported heavy shooting at the airport and said two United Nations military planes had been hit by ground fire in the last 48 hours.
The fighting prompted Pope John Paul II to call off his planned trip Thursday to the Bosnian capital, after he failed to win assurances of safety for the crowds expected to turn out to see him. His visit to neighboring Croatia was still scheduled for Saturday.
Violations of a 12-mile heavy weapons exclusion zone around Sarajevo have been frequent. Smaller weapons, including some anti-aircraft machine-guns, are not banned from the area. Snipers always are a threat, while shooting, especially around the airport, has increased over the last week.
Maj. Dacre Holloway, a U.N. spokesman, said Bosnian Serbs fired 11 artillery rounds east of Sarajevo, inside and in violation of the exclusion zone, Tuesday morning. He said it was the heaviest artillery attack since the zone was imposed in February under threat of NATO air strikes. The zone was imposed after the marketplace massacre in which 68 people died and more than 200 were wounded.
Holloway also reported heavy gunfire near the airport, which he described as ″intimidation fire.″
The two U.N. military planes were hit by gunfire near the Sarajevo airport Monday or Tuesday, but the bullet holes were not detected until the planes returned to Zagreb, Croatia, Holloway said. No casualties were reported.
The heaviest fighting, however, raged in Bosnia’s extreme northwest Bihac region, where U.N. officials said cluster bombs were being used for the first time. Holloway reported seven wounded, including three children, in fighting between Bosnian Serbs and government forces on Tuesday. Seven people were reported killed and more than 100 wounded in fighting on Monday.
In Geneva, the United Nations said Tuesday that 5,580 Muslims had been forced from their homes in the northern Bosnian towns of Banja Luka and Bijeljina since mid-July in a stepped-up ″ethnic cleansing″ campaign by the Bosnian Serbs.