‘Blood is Flowing Again’ in Breakaway Muslim Area in Bosnia
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic is moving to cement loyalties in Bosnia’s breakaway Bihac section, site of vicious fighting between Muslim-led government troops and rebel Muslim forces.
Izetbegovic met today in Sarajevo with army commanders from Bihac, in an apparent effort to shore up support and prevent further defections.
The commanders pledged their loyalty to Izetbegovic, Bosnian army officials said. They released no further details of the meeting.
The meeting followed days of clashes between government soldiers and troops backing Fikret Abdic in Bihac, in the far northwest corner of Bosnia on the border with Croatia. The rebellious local Muslim leader has declared the Bihac region independent from the rest of Muslim-controlled Bosnia, adding to the fragmentation of the war-torn republic.
Abdic is supported by former Bosnian Army soldiers, as well as many local police and armed civilians.
Both sides reported casualties Monday and accused each other of shelling their positions in Johovica, a town close to Abdic’s stronghold.
″Blood is flowing again,″ Bosnian radio reporter Mirza Sadikovic said in a report from army headquarters in Bihac.
Bosnian army sources said five of their soldiers died. But U.N. officials said three Izetbegovic loyalists and eight rebels were killed.
A report from the local news agency ZBTA said the Bosnian army had killed at least five civilians in Johovica. Bosnian radio said some of Abdic’s supporters in the town had surrendered.
A U.N. spokesman in Croatia, speaking on condition of anonymity, reported clashes Monday afternoon in a village on the Croat border, nine miles south of Abdic’s stronghold in Velika Kladusa.
Elsewhere, U.N. spokesman Lt. Col. Bill Aikman told reporters in Sarajevo that snipers targeted two U.N. convoys and a British armored personnel carrier in central Bosnia. Some vehicles were damaged, but there were no casualties.
And U.N. officials expressed concern about the fate of more than 100,000 Muslims trapped in Maglaj and Tesanj, towns about 40 miles north of Sarajevo.
Today marked the 100th day since the last relief convoys reached residents of the two towns, which are under siege by Serb forces.
Ray Wilkison, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said both towns are shelled daily. Air drops were continuing but some of the loads were missing their targets, he said.