Morillon takes road back to besieged town: UN commander ready for clash with Serbs

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The charismatic French commander of the United Nations forces in Bosnia, General Philippe Morillon, risked an all-out clash with Bosnian Serb forces yesterday by announcing that he was going back to the besieged town of Srebrenica to protect 60,000 Muslims trapped by heavy Serbian bombardment.

The authorities in Srebrenica last night agreed to a preliminary evacuation of 100 wounded people, plus 1,500 women, children and elderly, who were living in the open, the UN said. The evacuation should start today.

Last night the Bosnian Serb news agency said Bosnian Serb forces had blocked General Morillon at Sokolac, 50 kilometres (30 miles) north-east of Sarajevo. Late last night a UN spokesman said the general had not made contact with the UN forces in Sarajevo or Kiseljak, 20 miles west of the capital. 'I cannot confirm whether he has been stopped or not,' the spokesman said.

General Morillon left Sarajevo within a couple of hours of receiving a UN message from Srebrenica, reporting that Serbs fired 30 mortar bombs and artillery rounds overnight into the crowded town centre, where thousands of people, victims of earlier ethnic cleansing by Serbs, live in the open or in flimsy shacks.

The general plans to reach Srebrenica early today after passing through Serbian-occupied Zvornik. He should be joined at Zvornik by an advance party of Canadian peace-keepers. The general left Sarajevo with four armoured personnel carriers and eight officers from Britain, France, the US and Canada.

Earlier this month he staged a sensational visit to the besieged town, and was mobbed by tens of thousands of grateful Muslims appealing for salvation from a heavy Serbian offensive.

He announced his return after hearing that bombs landed yards from the overcrowded hospital, that the water supply had collapsed, and that Serbs were still pummelling the town despite a ceasefire. Bosnian radio reported three people dead.

Some top UN officials in New York criticised General Morillon after the first visit, calling him 'a loose


After entering Srebrenica, he had hoisted the UN flag over the besieged town and told several thousand terrified people who gathered to stop him leaving that he would save them.