Bosnian Serbs step up terror attacks

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Bosnian Serb fighters have stepped up their campaign of terror against Muslim civilians in the northern city of Banja Luka despite growing inter national pressure for a settlement of the Bosnian war, United Nations refugee workers said yesterday.

The officials, who are based in Banja Luka, said armed Serbs in uniform had murdered, raped, robbed and beaten Muslims and Croats in a series of attacks that the Bosnian Serb authorities had failed to discourage.

'In the last one or two months, we have seen an increase in ethnic violence in the area against non-Serbs, especially against the Muslim population,' said Joran Bjallerstedt, a UN refugee official. 'Today if you are a Serb, you are free to enter a Muslim house and throw them out of it or kill them, or whatever.'

The attacks are intended partly to drive non-Serbs out of Banja Luka and create room for Serbian refugees who have been displaced by fighting, mainly between Muslims and Croats, in central Bosnia. Up to 10,000 Serbs are expected to arrive in Banja Luka soon from Zenica in Muslim-held central Bosnia.

But the attacks also fit into a pattern of Bosnian Serb intransigence in the face of US and Russian efforts to halt the war. On Wednesday, Bosnian Serb forces looted 10 UN aid trucks destined for the Muslim enclave of Maglaj. The Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, called it the work of 'an insane person', but the UN pointed out that the hijacking occurred in an area under reasonably firm Serbian control.

Earlier this week, UN forces discovered Serbian tanks and weapons inside the UN-declared exclusion zone around Sarajevo. While the Serbs have relaxed their siege of Sarajevo, they have continued to attack Maglaj and the north-west Muslim enclave of Bihac.

The Bosnian Serbs are angry that the UN has given the green light for the deployment in Bosnia of troops from Turkey, a traditional Serbian foe. Bosnian Serb leaders have threatened to counter the Turkish step by asking Serbian-led rump Yugoslavia to bolster its military presence in Bosnia.

Turkey had originally wanted to send 1,000 men, but its Foreign Minister, Hikmet Cetin, said yesterday that the contingent would include 1,200 infantry, a 1,000-strong logistics unit and 500 engineers. This would give Turkey one of the highest profiles in the UN operation in Bosnia. Turkey is already playing a role in Nato's air missions over Bosnia, and it was eager to join UN forces on the ground because of the recent Russian intervention in Sarajevo.

SARAJEVO - The self-proclaimed Bosnian Serb republic's parliament yesterday endorsed their leaders' refusal to participate in a Muslim-Croat federation in Bosnia which emerged from US and Russian diplomatic mediation, Reuter reports. They rejected the talks until UN sanctions against Serb-led Yugoslavia are lifted.