US makes second air-drop as convoy reaches Mostar

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The Independent Online
MOSTAR (Agencies) - A United Nations aid convoy finally reached the embattled Bosnian city of Mostar last night, and began unloading food and medicine, a UN spokeswoman said.

Despite the convoy's success, the United States Air Force went ahead with an air-drop to the city for the second successive night, it was announced early today. 'It was the biggest drop to Mostar yet, we sent six C-130 cargo planes,' said a USAF spokesman. The air-drop included 13,400 individual ration packs and 28 tons of food in large containers.

The 27-lorry relief column pulled into Mostar after spending two days negotiating roadblocks and mobs of protesters. Eight lorries delivered supplies to the Croat-held sector, the other 19 went to the Muslim enclave in eastern Mostar, besieged by Croats for three months.

No further information was available on the progress of the relief convoy, which took about seven hours to make the 20-kilometre (12-mile) journey from Medjugorje, a town just inside the Bosnian border with Croatia, to Mostar because of protests by Croats. The protesters stopped the convoy on the outskirts of Medjugorje and in the village of Citluk, about seven kilometres (four miles) away. Women sat in the road singing hymns. Other protesters carried banners saying: 'Central Bosnia is starving, too'.

Bosnian Croat authorities have repeatedly blocked aid convoys to Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital, and central Bosnia. UN officials who got through into eastern Mostar on Sunday had predicted that people there would start dying of starvation tomorrow.

On Tuesday, the Mostar convoy was forced to stop in Medjugorje after Bosnian Croat forces demanded an exchange of bodies with Muslim troops. The demand was dropped yesterday and the convoy was allowed to proceed, only to be held up by hundreds of protesters. It was not clear whether the protests were spontaneous or staged by Bosnian Croat authorities.

UN officials said a ceasefire agreed for Mostar on Tuesday was holding yesterday. However, while the UN said the truce was meant to be permanent, Bosnian Croat commanders said it was valid only for yesterday's convoy.

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