Muslims fall victim to Serbian 'kindness'

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The Independent Online
WHILE Bosnia's warring sides and international mediators grapple with proposed borders for 10 ethnically-based cantons, Bosnian Serbs are vigorously 'ethnically cleansing' areas which they fear could be handed back to Muslims under the plan.

United Nations officials report that 5,000 Muslim refugees have fled this week to Muslim-held Tuzla in northern Bosnia along safe passage 'corridors' set up by the Serbian troops. The Bosnian Serbs call these routes 'humanitarian corridors', set up to let Muslims leave embattled villages and cross over Serbian territory in safety to Muslim-held cities.

But what the Belgrade media hold up as proof of Serbian kindness towards their enemies, the UN sees in a different light. UN officials call the 'humanitarian corridors' a new and bloodless brand of 'ethnic cleansing' aimed at picking off the weak and vulnerable Muslim-held enclaves.

The so-called humanitarian corridors are 'one-way streets', according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees spokeswoman, Sylvana Foa. 'People can go out but nothing can go in,' she said. According to Ms Foa, Serbian forces have deliberately blocked all UN aid convoys to two tiny Muslim-held enclaves at Cerska and Kamenica, near Tuzla, for 10 months, to starve the inhabitants into leaving. To increase the pressure, Bosnian Serbs are heavily shelling both enclaves, she said.

At the same time, Bosnian Serb forces have opened up two 12-mile 'humanitarian corridors' connecting Cersko and Kemenica with Muslim-held Tuzla.

By night, Muslims who wish to leave the two enclaves are guaranteed safe passage by Serbian forces to a village near Tuzla, from where they are safe. UN officials in Tuzla say the refugees have arrived in a bad state, frost-bitten and starving. Their biggest fear is that up to 50,000 more Muslims, still holding out in tiny enclaves thoughout eastern Bosnia, could be enticed to flee to Tuzla within the next few weeks by the three- stroke system of shelling, blocking UN aid convoys, and opening up 'humanitarian corridors'.

The corridors are being set up in areas which are supposed to go back to Muslim control, according to the peace plan. Far from being a humanitarian gesture, they seem part of a strategy of ethnically cleansing small Muslim enclaves which Serbian forces have failed to seize militarily.