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Serbs Control Key Towns, Army Begins Withdrawals

May 7, 1992

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ Serb forces reportedly took control of a key area of northern Bosnia- Herzegovina on Thursday as the federal army began withdrawing some of its forces from the republic.

Heavy fighting broke out Thursday evening around Ilidza, an eastern suburb of Sarajevo held by the Serbs. Serbs and Muslims fought mortar and machine-gun battles. Raging fires cast an eerie orange glow in the sky.

Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic called for an immediate cease-fire in Bosnia after meeting U.N. Undersecretary-General Marrack Goulding.

″No one in Bosnia is innocent,″ Milosevic said in Belgrade, capital of the new, smaller Yugoslavia comprising only Serbia and Montenegro.

″An immediate and unconditional cease-fire should be established from all sides.″

Milosevic, who appears to be trying to head of U.S. and European sanctions against Serbia, acknowledged that paramilitary forces from Serbia had fought in Bosnia, but said that had ceased.

″Serbia will not allow itself to be discredited because of irresponsible individuals and groups,″ he said.

Serbian media said leaders of Bosnia’s Serbs and Croats agreed in Graz, Austria, to cease hostilities. Serb leader Radovan Karadzic said on Serbian TV that Serbs would seek talks with Bosnia’s Muslims.

Belgrade-based Tanjug news agency quoted army sources as saying the army would complete its partial pullout from Bosnia by May 19.

While the army command is withdrawing all troops who are residents of other republics, 80 percent of the troops in Bosnia are Serbs of local origins - and they will remain behind.

These soldiers will almost certainly help the Serbian irregulars who for have fought Bosnian independence for two months. The Bosnian Serb leadership wants to form a Serb state within Bosnia, one that would be linked to Serbia.

After meeting federal Defense Minister Blagoje Adzic in Belgrade, Goulding said he was told that Serb irregulars, not the army were responsible for recent intensive shelling of Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital.

″I believe this to be true,″ he said.

Tanjug said the army and Serb irregulars captured Derventa and Doboj, north of Sarajevo, giving the Serbs control of much of northern Bosnia linked to Serb-held areas of Croatia and Serbia itself.

Serbs captured a third of Croatian territory in seven months’ war that claimed up to 10,000 dead.

Muslims and Croats, comprising about two-thirds of Bosnia’s 4.3 million population, voted for independence Feb. 29, touching off fighting that intensifed after Europe and the United States recognized Bosnia last month. More than 400 people have been killed in Bosnia.

A Finnish U.N. major was wounded in the leg in fighting near the southwestern town of Mostar, U.N. spokesmen said.

Tanjug reported five Serb irregulars died in fighting around a hospital in Brcko, 70 miles northeast of Sarajevo.

Update hourly