9 Serbs killed in clashes with UN

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THE BOSNIAN Serb army yesterday unleashed a war of words on the UN Protection Force to mask the fact that it lost nine men after launching serious attacks on peace- keepers near the 'safe areas' of Gorazde and Tuzla.

The most serious clash yet between the Serbs and the UN - a tank battle on Friday night provoked by Serbian shelling of a UN observation post - was described by the Serbs as the UN's 'first ground attack on positions of the Bosnian Serb army'.

The Serbs said nine people were killed and four wounded in the fighting; there were no UN casualties. The two-hour battle began when a UN observation post near Kalesija, east of Tuzla, came under artillery and mortar fire from Serbian forces.

Soldiers from the Nordic battalion called in eight Danish Leopard tanks as reinforcements, prompting the Serbs to attack again with four wire-guided anti-tank missiles, one of which landed only 5 yards from a Danish tank.

In response, the Danes fired 72 tank rounds at Serbian positions on Mount Vis, according to a UN spokesman, Commander Eric Chaperon, who emphasised the severity of the Serbian attack.

'The rockets were fired to hit,' he said. 'These are not children's toys. They did not miss their targets deliberately.'

This weekend UN troops have come under fire seven times - six times from Serbian positions - and the organisation, which has the right to call air strikes in self-defence, warned all sides to stop attacking its forces.

Although the Serbs routinely depict their offensives as 'self-defence' in the face of Muslim attacks, yesterday's statement, signed by the Bosnian Serb Chief of Staff, General Manojlo Milovanovic, goes further, and contains an implicit threat to the UN.

In it, the Danish response is described as 'proof of an open and biased engagement of the UN peace forces on the side of the Muslims, which puts in doubt their peaceful mission'.

The Serbs have alleged numerous Muslim attacks around Brcko, in the Serb-held corridor north of Tuzla; such reports may be true, but they may also be part of a propaganda campaign to set the scene for a 'defensive' Serb offensive to widen the corridor, which is only 1300m wide at one point.

Yesterday's accusations against the UN can be seen as part of such a campaign.

Despite continuing skirmishes in Gorazde, the town was relatively quiet yesterday.