Briton rescues five Mostar children: Aid worker braves sniper fire and UN obstruction to cross siege lines and take victims to safety from makeshift hospital

FIVE seriously injured children were rescued from the besieged Muslim sector of Mostar yesterday by Sally Becker, a Briton who has spent the past six weeks in the area as an 'independent' aid worker. Two ambulances - one driven by Ms Becker - ferried the children across the front line to Medjugorje, where UN helicopters were waiting to fly the patients out of Bosnia to Split, on the Croatian coast.

Ms Becker, driving an ambulance lent by a hospital in Croat-held western Mostar, braved sniper fire to cross the front line on Thursday night with the intention of collecting a three- year-old boy with a heart complaint and any other children in need. The boy was dead when she arrived, but she was able to bring five other children, two mothers and the brother of another child, out of the city.

However, the children's next destination remained unclear yesterday, as neither the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) nor the International Red Cross is involved in the operation and there are no hospitals standing by to take the patients.

The UN Protection Force (Unprofor) is trying to find places for the children, but the task is complicated by the fact that no single organisation has assumed responsibility for them. Staff from a Spanish battalion of peace-keepers were to assess the children at Medjugorje, nine miles from Mostar, to see if they were fit to travel. Unprofor was last night awaiting the results of that assessment.

A UNHCR source said the agency would step in if necessary, but said Ms Becker had a responsibility to look after the children. Ms Becker, who has spent several weeks in western Mostar, was given permission by the Croats several days ago to evacuate children from the makeshift hospital in the Muslim sector of the city. She said conditions in the hospital were 'too horrific for words'. Those evacuated include Selma Handzar, nine, who lost her right arm and has serious head and face wounds, and her eight- year-old brother Mirza, who is in danger of losing his leg from shrapnel wounds. The two were hit by a Croatian mortar bomb while playing in their garden a week ago.

'Selma pulled down her sheet to show me her stump,' Ms Becker said. 'I said, 'I'm sorry', and she replied, 'It's nothing.' She was really bright and optimistic and happy. She asked if she was leaving the city, and after that, nothing could stop me.

'But we couldn't risk taking their father, who is also wounded, because I had promised the Croats to take women and children only. Everyone was crying. Then, although he might never see them again, he limped down the street to clear a path so that his family could leave.' Ms Becker was determined to leave by midday, as the Croats had promised a ceasefire until 1pm, but she nearly missed her deadline after being held up for an hour by UN officials who apparently did not know she had permission to leave.

Ms Becker said the Bosnian Croats authorised her mission to highlight conditions in Croatian enclaves surrounded by Muslim forces in central Bosnia: 'I just hope I'm allowed to go there now,' she said, 'because it's just as bad, maybe even worse. There is no hospital, just a makeshift clinic in a monastery in Nova Bila, which has had 1,200 casualties in four months.'

Muslims continued to detain a UN aid convoy in eastern Mostar yesterday, believing the presence of the 19 trucks afforded some protection against Croatian attacks. Damir Greljo, five, and his baby sister Elmira were injured by Croatian shelling and their brother, Elmir, three, killed. Ms Becker plans to return for Damir and Elmira tomorrow or on Monday.

Ms Becker and her colleague Lynne Gillett, who came to Bosnia with a convoy arranged by the Medjugorje Appeal, a British charity, have spent the past few weeks delivering aid packages to western Mostar and its hospital. Before coming to Bosnia, Ms Becker was living in the hills of southern Spain, painting and doing the odd shift as an extra on Eldorado.

Seven British doctors are to be flown to Sarajevo today, the Overseas Development Agency announced. Most of the seven orthopaedic specialists come from Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Developer - HTML, CSS, Javascript

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Application Developer - ...

Ashdown Group: B2B Marketing Manager - Events, Digital, Offline

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: B2B Marketing Manager (Events, Digit...

Day In a Page

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

The end of an era across the continent

It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

'Focus on killing American people'

Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

Same-sex marriage

As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

The Mafia is going freelance

Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable