Two UN troops killed in Sarajevo convoy ambush

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The Independent Online
SARAJEVO - Two French soldiers were killed last night when a United Nations convoy was ambushed near Sarajevo airport. Three others were wounded in the heavy machine-gun fire, UN officials said.

Yusuf Khalef, UN spokesman in the Bosnian capital, said the convoy of 35-40 white lorries carrying food, water and other supplies for the UN peace-keeping mission came under fire at 7.20pm as it approached the airport on the western edges of the besieged city.

UN military officers said the attack appeared deliberate because the gunfire lasted at least five minutes and was aimed directly at the lorries, driving from Pancevo, near Belgrade. If the attack was indeed deliberate, it would be one of the worst incidents of violence against the 1,500 soldiers of the United Nations Protection Force based in the Bosnian capital.

'We do not know at this point which side attacked the convoy,' said Mr Khalef. Both Serbian militias and Bosnian government forces have positions near by.

The attack brought the casualty figures among UN peace-keepers in Bosnia to four dead and 46 wounded. In addition, four crew members of an Italian military transporter died when their relief aircraft was downed last Thursday when approaching Sarajevo.

Four other people were killed and about 10 wounded in the city yesterday when a mortar bomb slammed into a marketplace opposite the local television station.

In Geneva, the former US secretary of state Cyrus Vance and Lord Owen, representing the joint UN-European Community peace initiative, said they would visit Sarajevo and other centres in the Yugoslav conflict this week, probably arriving in Zagreb today. They are likely to press hard for guarantees that harassment of aid deliveries would stop.

Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the UN Secretary-General, said in Paris yesterday that he would ask the Security Council to authorise air cover for convoys if countries offered to provide the protection. Mr Boutros-Ghali also reviewed proposals to expand peace-keeping forces in Bosnia to about 8,000 from the present 1,500.

Mr Vance and Lord Owen have given Radovan Karadzic, leader of Bosnia's Serbian forces, a deadline of midday on Saturday to place his heavy weapons under UN control, as promised in peace talks in London. Yesterday he said he would do so by tomorrow.