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Britons wounded by mines in Bosnia


Defence Correspondent

Three British soldiers were injured yesterday, one seriously, when they stumbled into a minefield in the Gorazde "safe area" in Bosnia, south-east of Sarajevo. One was hit in the face and two others in the legs.

The injured men were taken by helicopter to Tuzla, in northern Bosnia, where the Nordic battalion of Norwegians and Swedes has a hospital. The British Army last night said both the Bosnian government forces in the enclave and the Bosnian Serbs controlling access to it had been quick to help.

The men were from the Royal Welch Fusiliers, 270 of whom form the mainstay of the UN force in Gorazde. There are also about 100 Ukrainian soldiers under British command.

A British force has been in Gorazde since the Serbs overran large areas of Muslim-held territory and nearly captured the town a year ago. The Serbs were halted by Nato air strikes. Like the UN force in Sarajevo, the Gorazde force is short of fuel, which has led it to conduct more patrols on foot.

The men wounded yesterday were patrolling the three-kilometre exclusion zone around Gorazde when they entered a minefield, "probably in error".

Lieutenant-Colonel Gary Coward, a UN spokesman in Sarajevo, said one had been hit in the face, possibly by a booby-trapped mine or one placed in a tree. Some anti-personnel mines hurl their explosive charges into the air, so they explode at head height.

The two other soldiers thought he had been shot, and went to give first aid, stumbling on two more mines. They were injured in the lower legs, but UN sources said they were reasonably confident the injuries were not "foot-threatening".

Lt-Col Coward said the situation around Gorazde had been quiet for some time, and that the British force had not been targeted directly. But many anti-personnel mines are lying around Bosnia, and the minefields are not properly marked.