Bosnians tell of atrocities

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ROBERT BLOCK

International resolve over Bosnia came under renewed pressure yesterday with reports of new atrocities against Muslim refugees as the Bosnian Serbs deported thousands of terrified people from the Srebrenica enclave in the biggest "ethnic cleansing" operation of the war.

Mocking a UN Security Council resolution that ordered them to leave the enclave, the Bosnian Serb forces had trucked away by 4pm yesterday all of the 40,000 Muslims who previously had been under the protection of UN peace-keepers.

The first group of refugees from Srebrenica arrived early yesterday morning in the Bosnian government-controlled city of Tuzla with stories of abuses by the Serb soldiers who escorted them on trucks to front-line areas from where they were forced to walk to safety.

Tearful women and children at a UN airbase near Tuzla said Serb soldiers took some men behind a building on Wednesday and shots were later heard. Interviews with some of the refugees produced what the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees described as a "very alarming" account of two girls being abducted by the Bosnian Serb army.

Men of fighting age have been taken away by the Bosnian Serbs for what they said was "screening".

The likelihood of a UN withdrawal appeared to gain backing from US President Bill Clinton, who yesterday said that UN peace-keepers would not remain in Bosnia unless the integrity of their mission was restored.

The Prime Minister yesterday rejected growing Tory backbench calls for the withdrawal of British troops in Bosnia following the fall of Srebrenica. John Major said the presence of the UN peace-keeping force was vital to avoid a wider Balkan war.

The office of the French President, Jacques Chirac, said France was ready to join in a "firm and limited military action" to protect ''safe havens" and suggested it would withdraw troops if Western partners were not prepared to take part.

Pressure in Croatia, page 10

Nato's air defences, page 11

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