Doctors in Bosnia report civilian cases

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The Independent Online

As more and more cases of "Balkans syndrome" are reported among soldiers, the risk to civilians is just beginning to be considered. The government of Bosnia's Muslim-Croat federation yesterday complained that Nato had not cooperated with it in researching the dangers to its people.

As more and more cases of "Balkans syndrome" are reported among soldiers, the risk to civilians is just beginning to be considered. The government of Bosnia's Muslim-Croat federation yesterday complained that Nato had not cooperated with it in researching the dangers to its people.

Bosnian health statistics indicate a marked increase in cancer in recent years. Nato used depleted uranium (DU) ammunition against the Bosnian Serb army in 1994 and 1995.

The federation's health ministry said that Nato refused to share information on DU in 1995, and called for international support to research the risks. Ministry statistics show 230 people per 100,000 suffered from cancers in 1999, a dramatic increase from 152 in 1998.

Dr Zoran Stankovic, a pathologist in Belgrade who visited targeted areas in Bosnia, claims he witnessed a nine-year-old girl, who probably inhaled DU particles after a shell exploded, lose all her nails and develop skin and lung problems in a matter of days.

In nearby Kosovo, a UN team said yesterday the ground beneath some DU shells left lying after 1999's Nato air campaign had been contaminated.

"At eight [out of 11] sites visited, the team found either slightly higher amounts of Beta-radiation immediately at or around the holes left by DU ammunition, or pieces and remnants of ammunition," said Pekka Haavisto, chairman of the UN Environment Programme team.

Dr Slobodan Cikaric of Belgrade's Institute of Oncology said: "Leukaemia can appear up to five years after exposure. It takes up to 10 years for radiation-related cancers to develop.".

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