Serbs shell Sarajevo after Nato raid

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Defiant Bosnian Serb forces bombarded Sarajevo and four other UN "safe areas" last night, hours after Nato jets blew up an arms dump close to Pale, the heart of the Serbs' self-declared statelet. The targeting of the "safe areas" appeared to have been co-ordinated, with all the attacks occurring between 7 and 9pm.

In Tuzla, a Reuters television cameraman saw 10 bodies after a shell landed close to several cafes. Bosnia's Vice President, Ejup Ganic, said at least 50 civilians, mostly "youngsters", were killed.

"Tuzla is covered with blood," he said. "We are demanding that these crimes are punished."

The response by the unchastened Serbs - in effect a challenge to the international community to do its worst - raised the prospect of further and wider Alliance air raids today. Last night UN officials met to consider their response to the renewed Serb shelling.

If the Serbs continue their defiance, UN officials say, they will be punished with wider-ranging air strikes that could target roads, bridges and major military installations. "If the Serbs escalate, the UN will escalate too," one official said.

Yesterday's Nato bombing, carried out by American, French, Dutch and Spanish warplanes, was the first since November and the first to strike so close to Pale, the rebel Serb capital.

The United Nations overrode strong Russian objections to approve the raids after the Serbs failed to obey a noon deadline for returning four heavy weapons seized from UN collection points.

There were fears that the raid, while answering mounting criticism of the feebleness of the UN, could damage relations with Russia, which last night called for "maximum restraint", and upset hopes of persuading Serbia proper to recognise Bosnia. However, President Bill Clinton, the Nato Secretary-General, Willy Claes, and German and British officials welcomed the raid as a salutary warning to the rebel Serbs after the "reprehensible'' shelling of Sarajevo in recent days.

Two hours after the Nato raid, Serb soldiers entered a UN weapons site and fired seven shells at the suburb of Hrasnica, wounding at least four people. Five others were wounded by sniping and shelling in the city. Serb forces also surrounded peace-keepers at another weapons collection site. Shelling was reported in the ''safe areas'' of Bihac, Gorazde and Srebrenica. Four or five shells hit the centre of Srebrenica; there were no reports of casualties.

A huge grey cloud mushroomed above mountains east of the city in the afternoon, marking the spot where Nato jets bombed two bunkers filled with ammunition in Jahorinski Potok, close to Pale.

Western governments chose the target specifically for the political shock value of an attack so close to the seat of Bosnian Serb power. "It was our decision that this target ... would send the kind of signals we want to send to the factions," said the Nato commander in the region, Admiral Leighton Smith.

Bombing aftermath, page 11