RAF spearheads Sarajevo rescue: UN officials search stricken city to find those given a chance of life

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The Independent Online
MITHAD HUSKOVIC was lying on his living room sofa when a team of doctors and Western journalists burst in to his tiny 15th floor flat to break the news that he is going to England for an operation.

Mr Huskovic, 24, one of 41 patients in Sarajevo due to be evacuated this weekend, stuttered: 'Well, all I can say is I'm overwhelmed.'

Four doctors in two vans toured Sarajevo yesterday, searching for the 41. Only four have working telephones.

Mr Huskovic, a soldier, has had a catheter for six months after being injured by a shell which landed near the family shop in the frontline suburb of Stup. He has developed a life-threatening kidney infection. 'Treatment for him is impossible with no water and no electricity in our hospitals,' said Dr Raza Turabilja. 'It is a touching moment,' she added, observing Mithad's grin and his parents' smiles. 'It has been difficult telling people they cannot be evacuated from Sarajevo. They cry and they blame us.'

Local doctors say evacuating the sick is not enough. Dr Vesna Cengic, who treated Irma Hadzimuratovic, said: 'Must we put on a theatre to save the other people's lives? We can save an awful lot of lives here, if we get electricity.'

The evacuees must get permission from the Bosnian government and besieging Serbs to leave the city. 'Even if you are a double amputee you could still be liable for military service,' said the UNHCR spokesman in Sarajevo, Peter Kessler. 'As long as you have a finger that can pull a trigger, the authorities may think you can still defend your country.'

But finding the patients could be a bigger hurdle. The family of one young boy with a perforated bowel have moved from their front-line flat, recently blasted by Bosnian Serbs without leaving a forwarding address.

Edhem Dedovic, 11, whose photograph was on the front page of the Independent on Wednesday, was told he will be going to England by journalists who sped to his home ahead of the UN. Edhem's face was half pulverised and he lost one eye when a grenade blew him off his bicycle in May. 'When I got up, covered in blood and ran to the first person for help, he ran away in horror,' he recalled.

The boy needs massive facial reconstruction. An operation on a nerve could restore movement to his right hand. Asked about England, he said: 'All I want to do is ride my bicycle and have pizza and ice-cream. I have not had that since the war started.'

VITEZ - A mortar bomb smashed into this central Bosnian town at noon yesterday, sending shards of steel into six children playing in the sunshine, Reuter reports. The attack, coinciding with the appearance of people in the open, seriously injured four of the children, aged between two and seven.

The Bosnian Serbs yesterday defied the UN by failing to withdraw from mountains above Sarajevo within a deadline set by the co-chairmen of the Geneva peace talks - Page 8; Conor Cruise O'Brien, page 18

(Photograph omitted)