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Shell Hits U.N. Headquarters; Casualty Toll Mounts

July 2, 1995

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ A mortar shell apparently fired by Serbs exploded in a tree Sunday at U.N. headquarters, showering shrapnel on the compound and U.S. embassy next door. Three peacekeepers and an embassy guard were wounded.

Seven more civilians were injured in other shelling, including an Associated Press reporter and photographer, wounded when two shells exploded right outside the U.N. compound 10 minutes after the first.

The direct attack on U.N. headquarters culminated a weekend of escalating violence against civilians and peacekeepers in besieged Sarajevo. There are increasing questions about whether the United Nations can or should remain in Bosnia.

Thirteen people were killed and 75 wounded as Serb shells rained down on residential areas Saturday and early Sunday, the Bosnian Health Ministry said. City streets, some stained with blood, were deserted all weekend.

Debris, broken branches and shattered glass were strewn around the U.N. compound and the embassy yard after Sunday’s shelling. Embassy staff took shelter in the basement.

Serb shelling, and targeting of U.N. facilities, has increased dramatically since the Muslim-led government launched an offensive June 15 to lift the 38-month siege of Sarajevo.

Heavy machine-gun fire rang out along front lines in western Sarajevo Sunday, U.N. spokesman Guy Vinet said. Government forces said they captured strategic high ground from the Serbs just 2 1/2 miles north of the city.

Around noon Sunday, a mortar shell detonated in the branches of a tree around the U.N. headquarters. U.N. spokesman Lt. Col. Gary Coward said three peacekeepers were injured by shrapnel.

Sabahudin Luckin, 27, a Bosnian policeman guarding the U.S. Embassy compound, also suffered shrapnel wounds to his hands.

``There are some very lucky people here,″ said Coward speaking from his office, where two windows were smashed by shrapnel and a large piece of metal was embedded in a desk.

``Given recent events, I believe it’s reasonable to guess fairly accurately who fired,″ Coward said, referring to Serbs.

AP photographer Santiago Lyon and AP reporter Srecko Latal were both hit by shrapnel in their legs when two more shells struck minutes later. Latal was released from the hospital after being treated, while Lyon underwent surgery to remove the shrapnel.

Earlier Sunday, French peacekeepers fired the biggest gun in their arsenal, a 120-mm mortar, for the first time since war began in April 1992 against Serb guns that terrorize traffic on the sole route out of Sarajevo.

Vinet said he did not know if the French had succeeded in taking out the Serb battery of 30mm anti-aircraft guns that regularly fires on traffic on the treacherous road across Mount Igman.

The French mortar was deployed following French President Jacques Chirac’s direct order to protect peacekeepers better. France has the biggest single contingent in the 23,000-strong U.N. force in Bosnia, and has lost 41 soldiers there.

Two U.N. military observers were slightly injured and 14 civilians hospitalized after a rocket bomb _ a Serb weapon that contains a huge amount of explosives _ landed in a southwestern suburb of Sarajevo late Saturday. The blast destroyed two houses, the U.N. said.

Late Saturday, the U.N. aid agency reported the first two hunger-related deaths in the besieged Muslim enclave of Bihac, in northwest Bosnia.

An elderly man was found dead in his apartment. He left a letter saying he had nothing to eat and was too proud to beg. The second victim, a 3-year-old boy, weighed 15 pounds when he died, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said.

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