Fighting dashes aid hopes

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The Independent Online
SARAJEVO - The airport in Sarajevo was caught in a crossfire of mortars, artillery and rockets last night as Bosnian and Serbian forces resumed fierce fighting after a relatively quiet day, a United Nations spokesman said. It was the heaviest exchange of fire around the airport since the UN suspended humanitarian relief flights on Tuesday night and dimmed the prospects for their resumption, scheduled for tomorrow.

Mik Magnusson, a UN spokesman, said the UN headquarters, not far from the airport, had also been hit by mortars and sniper fire. 'This place has been sniped at and we have taken some damage here from airport mortars. We can't say anybody has been shooting at us intentionally, but this is part of being in a besieged city,' he said. 'It isn't a healthy omen for the UN to have its men under fire when airport operations have been suspended and we are evaluating our mission.' There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Muslim fighters defending Sarajevo have suffered a significant defeat in a tank and mortar battle with rebel Serbs in a mountain pass above the city, they said yesterday. A sector commander calling himself Uka said Serbian forces dislodged units of the Bosnian Territorial Defence from two strongholds guarding the pass on Wednesday and reopened an important supply road to the city's main Serbian suburb of Ilidza. 'This was a major defeat for us,' Uka said. 'We could not hold our positions against the artillery.'

Bosnian authorities yesterday issued fresh casualty figures which said the four-month war had killed 8,272 people - 1,569 of them in Sarajevo - and wounded 35,000. However, Haris Silajdzic, the Bosnian Foreign Minister, who is visiting Iran, yesterday said Serbian forces had killed 50,000 Bosnian Muslims, an action which brought 'shame on humanity'. Following allegations of death camps run by Serbs holding Muslim and Croat prisoners in Bosnia, Milan Panic, the Yugoslav Prime Minister, said there were no such camps in Serbia or Montenegro. He denied responsibility for conditions in camps in Bosnia, where Muslims and Croats are alleged to have been tortured and executed by Serbian forces. Muslims and Croats contend that more than 100 camps have been created, prompting the United States to call for a special session of the UN Human Rights Commission to examine the 'dangerous deterioration of the human rights situation in the former Yugoslavia' Convoys of Serbian trucks containing men and munitions could be heard rumbling over the mountain passes into Ilidza yesterday following the Serbs' recapture of the road. Uka said two Bosnian strongholds were attacked from three sides by Serbs and added: 'For every bullet we fired, the enemy fired a mortar back.'

At least one Bosnian fighter was killed and 13 were wounded before they were forced to retreat. Reopening the road enabled the Serbs to run supplies from the town of Pale, their administrative centre 15km (nine miles) outside Sarajevo.