British brave minefield to recover their dead

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The Independent Online
British troops yesterday carved a path through a minefield to recover the bodies of three British soldiers killed when their Spartan armoured troop carrier was blown up by a mine in Central Bosnia on Sunday.

The dead soldiers were named as Lieutenant Richard Madden, 25, single, from Somerset, Trooper Andrew Ovington, 25, married, from Peterlee, and Trooper John Kelly, 21, single, from Sunderland. They were from the Light Dragoons, an armoured reconnaissance regiment for the British 4th armoured brigade, at Sipovo.

The Spartan was leading a patrol of two vehicles in the desolate area known as the Anvil, which the British are securing before it is handed back to the Bosnian Serbs under the Dayton peace agreement.

At 2.10pm local time, the Spartan hit a mine 20km west of Mrkonjic Grad. It was not possible to reach the destroyed vehicle over the rough roads until dark. The army postponed further attempts until yesterday morning. It took all day to immobilise other mines and clear a way to the bodies.

The Spartan is a light, tracked armoured vehicle able to carry a command team of four people as well as its crew of three. The anti-tank mines used in Bosnia are designed to destroy much heavier main battle tanks, and contain about 5kg of high explosive.

The centre of Tuzla, the Muslim city in northern Bosnia, was brought to a standstill yesterday when 1,000 refugees from the former muslim enclave of Srebrenica blockaded the offices of the Red Cross and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. The protesters, who damaged several cars, were demanding action to investigate the disappearance of 10,000 people from Srebrenica and the existence of prison camps in the Serb-controlled sector of Bosnia. It is assumed that the missing people - mainly men of military age - were killed and buried in mass graves in the Serb-controlled area after the town fell to the Serbs in July.

A big white banner proclaimed "200 dana od srebrenica" (200 days since Srebrenica). Most of the demonstrators were women but they were joined by men in uniform who had survived the 50-mile march from Srebrenica in July, harried by the Bosnian Serbs.

"My man is dead and the Red Cross is doing nothing," one woman screamed. Dozens clustered in the courtyard outside the Red Cross building screaming the names of prison camps they said were still in operation. Between 15,000 and 20,000 refugees from the Srebrenica area are accommodated in the Tuzla region, and virtually every one lost a family member when the town fell.

"We want our children, our brothers," screamed another woman. "Our life here is very difficult but we don't care. We want to find them, or to know what happened to them." The investigation of alleged mass graves is the responsibility of the tribunal for war crimes in the former Yugoslavia, which will begin its inquiries at the start of next month, after reports of up to 200 mass grave sites around the country.