Mortars hit Sarajevo refugee hotel

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SARAJEVO (Reuter) - A six-storey refugee hotel blazed fiercely last night after being hit by three mortar bombs. Witnesses said at least two refugees were killed and eight wounded. The Europa Hotel was swept by automatic gunfire while rescue workers were trying to help casualties.

Another mortar bomb exploded near the hotel an hour later, injuring one policeman and two British journalists, Nigel Thomson, an ITN cameraman and Jim Dutton, a sound recordist. Neither was said to be seriously hurt and both were recovering in a Sarajevo hospital last night.

Mortar fire crashed on the besieged Bosnian capital throughout the afternoon. At least eight people died before the attack on the Europa Hotel, which has been home to up to 800 refugees at a time during the four-month siege of Sarajevo by rebel Serbs.

Firemen said the building was blazing out of control and there were fears that elderly people, children and wounded might be trapped inside. The Belgrade-based news agency Tanjug said Serb forces were responsible for the attack on the hotel, and that it was in retaliation for a Muslim artillery assault on the Bosnian Serbs' headquarters in Pale, outside Sarajevo.

UN officials said yesterday that a Canadian peace-keeper was killed in central Croatia when his truck ran over an anti-tank mine.

The commander of Serbian forces in Bosnia, General Ratko Mladic, threatened yesterday to shoot down United Nations relief aircraft, claiming - without producing evidence - that the UN had dropped arms to the besieged Bosnian forces in Sarajevo. The Yugoslav Foreign Minister, Vladislav Jovanovic, gave a warning that any foreign armed intervention in the conflict in Bosnia would have 'bloody, serious and very uncertain consequences'.

A perilous UN convoy to the besieged town of Gorazde - which enabled correspondents to witness the misery there for the first time - was also criticised by the Serbs. Tanjug complained that Bosnian forces used the convoy as a 'moving shield' to infiltrate and attack Serb positions.

Members of the Islamic group at the United Nations decided yesterday to call for a special General Assembly session on the crisis in Bosnia. In Brussels, EC officials deferred a decision on the tightening of economic sanctions against Serbia.