Experts reject 'fraud' claim over bomb

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The Independent Online
MILITARY experts yesterday dismissed Bosnian Serb claims that 68 people killed in a Sarajevo market last Saturday were victims of a ruse by their own side to bring the international community into the war on their behalf, writes Christopher Bellamy. The mortar bomb which, it is believed, caused the death and mutilation was well capable of doing so, experts said.

United Nations officials said yesterday that there was no evidence to support Bosnian Serb allegations that the Sarajevo market attack was a 'stage-managed fraud' by Bosnia's Muslim-led government.

A 120mm (4.8in) calibre mortar bomb was believed to be responsible, UN sources said. There was some surprise that such a bomb could be so destructive, but an infantry officer told the Independent: 'In terms of whether a 120mm bomb could do that damage I'd say it could. You'd get a pretty even spread of shrapnel.'

Normally a mortar bomb hitting a hard, concrete floor would spray its shrapnel upwards so people dropping to the ground would stand a chance of survival. But the bomb appears to have hit a metal frame supporting the awning over the market, so it sprayed its shrapnel in the most lethal fashion - at head height. 'It was an airburst,' military sources said.

The former Yugoslav Army made its own ammunition for 120mm mortars, either the Soviet M-43 or the indigenous UBM-52 or M-74 and M-75.

Typical high-explosive mortar rounds of this calibre weigh 12kg (27lb) and contain high-explosive charges of up to 2.5kg (6lb) and, depending on the bomb, can fire out to ranges of about 6km to 9km.

The Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic claimed on Tuesday that the attack was a fraud in which corpses of people who had died earlier and plastic body parts were used to raise casualty counts. Mr Karadzic quoted what he called eye-witnesses saying there were only a few people at the market on Saturday when the explosion occurred, not hundreds. Only a few people were killed and injured, he contended.

But Kris Janowski, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said in Sarajevo: 'We had a UNHCR officer in the area just before it happened and he reported that there were a lot of people there, which refutes one of Mr Karadzic's claims.' The final death toll reported by Sarajevo hospitals was 68 dead and 197 wounded.

UN officials who analysed the mortar crater could not pin down exactly where it had been fired from but said there was no evidence to suggest that the Bosnian Army (BiH) was responsible.