UN Says Canadian Peacekeepers Detained, Denies Report Of ‘Mock Execution’ With AM-Yugoslavia
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ Drunk Bosnian Serb fighters held 11 Canadian peacekeepers at gunpoint, beat them and fired shots at their feet, U.N. and Canadian officials said Tuesday.
U.N. military officials protested to the Serbs over the Dec. 22 incident, in which the Canadians were released after about an hour.
A U.N. statement released in New York on Tuesday said reports that the incident was a ″mock execution″ were exaggerated and a Canadian forces’ statement also played it down, calling it ″an isolated incident initiated in the heat of battle by certain Serbs who were drunk ...″
At a briefing in Ottawa, Brig.-Gen. Barry Ashton of the Canada’s defense ministry called it a ″serious but routine incident.″
Canadian Defense Minister David Collenette said ″I’m most concerned about this particular issue as described in the newspapers today.″
The incident occurred on the road between Sarajevo and Visoko, at a point where the road crosses a river. Canadian peacekeepers have checkpoints on both sides of the river, one operated jointly with Serb forces and another on the side where the Muslim-led Bosnian government forces have a separate checkpoint.
According to the Canadian statement, a Serb soldier was fatally wounded by gunfire from the government-held side. About an hour later, Serb fighters held the four Canadians at the checkpoint, then went to the nearby Canadian bivouac and took another seven soldiers, the statement said.
″The Canadians were then disarmed and placed under armed guard,″ the statement said. ″They were kicked and punched and several machine gun bursts were fired around them.″
After about an hour, ″they were allowed to take their weapons and go,″ it said.
The U.N. statement said the 11 Canadians were held against their will for 51 minutes and one Serb soldier fired some shots near the feet of one Canadian and struck another with his rifle butt.
″Reports of a mock execution appear to be exaggerated,″ said the statement released in New York. It referred to a report in Tuesday’s New York Times which said the Canadians were captured and subjected to a mock execution, with Serbs lining them against a wall and opening fire above their heads and at their feet.
The U.N. statement praised the Canadian soldiers’ composure during the incident, saying that probably saved their lives. Canadian peacekeepers will man the checkpoint again after measures are in place to improve their security, it said.
U.N. peacekeepers in Bosnia are helping to protect the delivery of humanitarian supplies but are not engaged in combat.