Hundreds leave Sarajevo: A letter sent to the outside world from the Bosnian capital as hundreds seize the chance to flee

Click to follow
(First Edition)

SARAJEVO (Reuter) - Hundreds of people were evacuated from besieged Sarajevo yesterday and reached the nearby Serbian-held district of Lukavica on their way to safety in Croatia or Serbia, United Nations officials said.

Most were elderly, war-wounded or mothers with children who had waited for months to leave. The evacuation had been postponed repeatedly by fighting and by haggling between Bosnian Serb and Muslim officials.

About 500 more civilians were still waiting to leave Sarajevo's shell-shattered railway station, but staff of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees hoped to complete the operation by last night. In all, a fleet of buses was due to shuttle about 1,265 people to Lukavica.

In the Sarajevo suburbs of Rajlovac and Stup, sporadic shelling continued following fierce fighting on Monday in which seven people were killed and 52 wounded. A Christmas-New Year truce, agreed last week by Bosnia's warring Serbs, Croats and Muslims, was supposed to last until 15 January but it failed to halt the bloodshed.

A UN military spokesman said it would investigate claims that the mainly Muslim Bosnian army killed captured Croatian soldiers and might also have killed a number of Croatian villagers.

Major Idesbald van Biesebroeck said a UN patrol found the body of a Croatian soldier on Sunday in a village near the central town of Gornji Vakuf. 'He was killed by an axe-blow to the head and was without a doubt a prisoner,' said a duty officer at a UN Protection Force base in Kiseljak.