U.N. Says Serbs Targeted Center of Sarajevo with Banned Weapons
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ Rebel Serbs laying siege to Sarajevo are shooting at civilian neighborhoods with large-caliber weapons, which are supposed to be banned from around the capital, the United Nations said Sunday.
Two people were killed in shelling Sunday night in the center of town, said Capt. Myriam Sochacki, spokeswoman for the U.N. peacekeepers. The United Nations requested NATO air presence over Sarajevo, and planes could later be heard overhead.
The city’s troubles and increased fighting in the countryside underscored the failure of diplomatic efforts to end Bosnia’s 3-year-old war, despite a cease-fire that began Jan. 1. U.N. officials say it appears only late-winter snow has delayed a resumption of full-scale war.
Sarajevo was rocked by about a dozen explosions late Saturday and early Sunday, wounding two people. A U.N. investigation found at least six of blasts were 120mm mortar rounds fired by Bosnian Serbs, Sochacki said.
Sunday night, a pair of shells exploded in the center of town, killing Munevera Selimovic, 58, and Maja Djokic, 18, and wounding three others. Two policemen investigating those blasts were wounded by a second pair of explosions an hour later.
The Bosnian army said Sunday night’s blasts also were from 120mm mortar shells fired from Serb positions north of the city.
Weapons of that size have been banned from a 12.5-mile zone around Sarajevo for more than a year, but not all of them have been removed.
U.N. officials said the center of the city, where the shells landed, did not have any military significance.
``There are no military objects in that area. It seems they were targeting civilians,″ Sochacki said, adding that the United Nations protested to the Serbs.
The so-called ``heavy-weapons exclusion zone″ was imposed in February 1994 _ under threat of NATO airstrikes _ after a single mortar exploded in a Sarajevo marketplace, killing more than 60 people.
Sarajevo airport remained closed Sunday with U.N. troops on high alert. A U.S. relief plane was hit by 10 bullets fired by Serbs Saturday, and they refused to promise to stop shooting.
``When they don’t give guarantees, it means that they will most probably shoot at planes again,″ said a U.N. spokesman, Maj. Herve Gourmelon.
The city, surrounded by rebel Serbs, depends on the airport for most of its relief supplies.
But the government was celebrating what one commander termed one of its biggest victories of the war, the capture of territory on Mount Vlasic. The mountain is in central Bosnia, about 45 miles northwest of Sarajevo.
Bosnian TV showed footage of soldiers in winter-white camouflage lined up near a communications tower reportedly captured by government troops early in their 3-week-old offensive.
``I think that this is one of the biggest victories so far,″ said Brig. Gen. Mehmed Alagic, commander of the Bosnian army 7th Corps. ``From this location, we have the possibility to advance in several directions.″
More fighting and troop movements were reported Sunday around Mount Vlasic and across northern Bosnia.