British troops get tough with Croat attackers

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The Independent Online
BRITISH troops delivered a sharp warning to Croat forces on the Muslim-Croat front line on Wednesday night, adopting the 'robust' approach favoured by the new United Nations commander, Lieutenant- General Sir Michael Rose.

Croatian forces fired two shots at a United Nations convoy, guarded by elements of the Coldstream Guards. Up to 200 rounds were fired back, possibly killing some of the attackers. The British then asked for - and got - permission to use the main arweapon on their Warrior fighting vehicles - the powerful 30mm Rarden cannon. In the event, the it was not needed. There were no UN casualties.

The Warriors were escorting a convoy northwards on the only remaining supply route from the Adriatic. They came under fire from a Croat bunker 2km (1 1/4 miles) south of the town of Gornji Vakuf on the Muslim-Croat front line.

Sources said a shot was fired at the convoy and a Warrior turned its turret towards the bunker on the 'Baba feature', which has given the UN trouble in the past. The British have repeatedly approached the local Croat commander, Colonel Zvonimir Skender, a former Foreign Legionnaire, about firing from the bunker.

Sources said yesterday that Colonel Skender ordered an end to interference with the passage of UN convoys, but the Croat soldiers in the bunker refused to obey. It is likely that, as in the past, the British received tacit approval to deal with the 'freelance' elements.

Another round was fired, and the Guards replied with 200 rounds from a Hughes chain gun. British sources said the target was 'neutralised' - suggesting the renegade troops were killed, although the British did not investigate.

In northern Bosnia, 10 people were killed when a shell hit a clinic in the Muslim enclave of Maglaj, Muslim-controlled Sarajevo radio said yesterday. Maglaj, under siege from Serb and Croatian forces, is one of the pockets the UN hopes to demilitarise after its successful initiative in Sarajevo.

WASHINGTON - Bosnian Muslims, Croats and Croatian government officials will meet in Washington this weekend for talks aimed at forming a unified bi-national Bosnian state, a senior State Department official said yesterday.

In Sarajevo however, hopes that a Muslim-Croat ceasefire deal would spread peace in Bosnia were clouded yesterday by reports of fierce fighting and scepticism among soldiers. The UN-brokered ceasefire, signed on Wednesday between Muslim and Croat commanders, is due to take effect at noon today. All heavy weapons are to be handed over to UN troops or withdrawn by noon on 7 March.