Serbs shell school full of refugees

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The Independent Online
LESS than an hour after the Serbs released 250 Muslim refugees yesterday they opened fire with a tank or artillery and scored direct hits on the school serving as a refugee centre in Travnik where they knew refugees had been taken. A number of people were wounded.

The shells landed 20 minutes after press left the refugee centre, at about 1.30 pm. Three rounds landed on the buildings where refugees were processed after crossing the Serbian lines at Turbe to the west.

Two photographers, Anthony Suau, from Time magazine, and Greg English, from Sygma, had remained behind after the UN and most of the press had left. 'The people were just going crazy, especially the newer refugees. They were just petrified, screaming. There was glass everywhere. The Serbs knew exactly what was going on. They got the UN and the press out of there and then they shelled it,' said Mr Suau.

The refugees reported that the Bosnian Serbs are press-ganging Muslim men in the territory they control into their army. The press-ganging and recent Serb-Croat collusion, which led to the amputation of the Muslim-held 'Maglaj finger' last week, suggest the Serbs are experiencing a severe shortage of manpower.

In response to 'market forces', the Serbs have raised the price of a ticket out of their territory from DM100 to DM120 (pounds 47) - a great deal of money to Muslims who are denied work. The tickets, the refugees said, were bought from people masquerading as members of the Red Cross.

A group of refugees from Prijedor said their houses had been burnt down a year ago and since then they had been living in a concentration camp. They had paid DM120 each to be allowed to escape to Muslim-controlled territory. At a collection point in Banja Luka yesterday the women had found out about the possibility of escape because they were allowed to walk in the town. The men were not: if they did, they faced the prospect of being killed or being dragooned into the Bosnian Serb army.

The refugees' stories support the view that, although well-armed, the Bosnian Serbs are short of manpower and may have difficulty holding recent gains. That might explain why last week they colluded with the Croatian HVO to cut off what is now the Maglaj pocket.

Today, 800 French soldiers, the first of the extra United Nations troops to protect the UN's 'safe areas', are expected to pass through Vitez en route for Sarajevo. The French troops are the first of 7,500 extra forces the UN needs to guard its six declared 'safe areas'. Since the decision was taken to deploy them, Fojnica, near the UN base at Kiseljak, has been declared a UN 'area of special interest' but was promptly shelled by the Muslim-led BiH, and Muslim-held Maglaj has been cut off.

Nato agreed yesterday to start deploying bombers and ground attack aircraft, including 20 US bombers, to bases in Italy from this weekend, preparing to protect UN forces in Bosnia including troops sent to Muslim 'safe areas'.