UK troops ready to take on Serbs

Britain sends tanks, guns and men to reinforce UN supply lines into Sarajevo after two French soldiers are killed

Britain and France yesterday demonstrated their determination to reinforce UN peace-keepers in Sarajevo by dispatching tanks, artillery and troops to the besieged Bosnian capital.

The units of the Rapid Reaction Force, based in central Bosnia, were expected to arrive on Mount Igman last night where they will take up their positions overlooking Sarajevo.

The deployment, described by a UN spokesman as a "turning point" for the UN mission, followed Western assurances made on Friday at the London conference that Serbian aggression would no longer be tolerated. Early yesterday, Serb forces attacked a UN food convoy and base resulting in two French soldiers being killed and three wounded. President Jacques Chirac said his troops would not cave in to Serb military pressure in Bosnia and would strike back if attacked in Sarajevo. "The Serbs had better understand that we won't give in," Mr Chirac warned. "I want to say right away that the instructions given are to reinforce our positions around Sarajevo with the Rapid Reaction Force and shoot back systematically ... if we are attacked again."

The Mount Igman reinforcements comprised at least 320 British soldiers, a company of French light tanks and French engineers. The British contingent includes two batteries of the 19th Field Regiment of Royal Artillery with twelve 105mm light guns with a range of over 10 miles. The soldiers were clearly glad to be doing something tangible. "The UN's been losing face. It's time to stop pussying about," one said.

From the south-western slopes of the mountain, shielded from the Bosnian Serb fire which rakes the final bends of the treacherous mountain road - the city's only lifeline - the guns will be able to strike back at Serb artillery and mortars.

One infantry company of the Devon and Dorset Regiment with 16 Warrior armoured fighting vehicles was also on its way. "Their mission is to respond to attacks against Sarajevo," said a UN spokesman, Lt-Col Chris Vernon. An armoured column of some 500 French Foreign Legionnaires left their base at Tomislavgrad in western Bosnia to reinforce UN peace-keepers in Sarajevo.

The chorus of threats against the Serbs was joined by President Bill Clinton, who said US air power should be used in Bosnia if Serb aggression continued, especially against the Gorazde "safe area", but reiterated that US ground troops would not be sent into combat.

"I do believe we should use American air power if the Serbian aggression continues to erode the commitments that they have all made, for example, to respect the integrity of Gorazde," Mr Clinton said.

Despite the West's tough stance, however, heavy fighting was reported across Bosnia yesterday. The Bosnian Serbs renewed their assault on the eastern "safe area" of Zepa and joined with Croatian Serbs and a rebel Muslim militia in an attack on the Bihac area in the north-west. Some 2,000 people are fleeing the onslaught.

Croatia, which borders on the Bihac enclave and is waging a new campaign to recapture territory it lost to rebel Serbs in 1991, promised military aid to Bosnian government troops in Bihac on Saturday, setting the scene for an escalation of the conflict in both former Yugoslav republics.

Commenting on reinforcements for Sarajevo, the Defence Secretary Michael Portillo said: "There is no shift in any sense from peacekeeping to war fighting. We simply wish to provide protection to peace-keepers who are trying to save lives in Bosnia ... If we could have a secure overland route, that would be the best guarantee on the survival of Sarajevo and its people."

An opinion poll showed that British public opinion has swung in favour of much tougher action by the West in stopping the carnage by the Bosnian Serbs among the Muslims. The poll, carried out by Mori on Friday as the international conference reached a decision on action to take against the Bosnian Serbs, showed a majority of 52 per cent supported a decisive shift from peace-keeping towards British troops becoming involved in the conflict.

It also found that half those polled were ready to risk the lives of British soldiers in Bosnia to protect the Muslim population, and 59 per cent supported the use of British forces in air attacks on the Bosnian Serbs.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Soft Developer (4.0, C#, Windows Services, Sockets, LINQ, WCF)

£65000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: .NET Developer (4.0, C#, Windows ...

C# Developer -Winforms, VB6 - Trading Systems - Woking

£1 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading financial software house with its He...

C #Programmer (.Net 4.0/4.5/ C#) -Hertfordshire-Finance

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: C #Developer (.Net 4.0/4.5/ C#, A...

JQuery Developer JQuery, UI, Tomcat, Java - Woking

£1 per annum: Harrington Starr: JQuery Developer JQuery, UI, Tomcat, Java - Tr...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home