Snipers kill two fleeing orphans: As Zagreb holds its first independent elections, Serbian forces fire on a bus evacuating Bosnian children from Sarajevo

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The Independent Online
TWO BOSNIAN orphans were killed on Saturday evening when Serbian forces opened fire on a bus evacuating them from Sarajevo, United Nations officials in the Bosnian capital said yesterday.

The bus, carrying 47 orphans, was attempting to travel from Sarajevo to the Croatian port of Split, from where the children were to have been taken to Bavaria.

Jurgen Angelbeck, a member of the local German parliament of Saxe-

Anhalt, who was organising the evacuation, said that, hours after the sniper attack, fighters at a Serbian roadblock forced nine of the children off the bus. 'They said, 'These children are Serbian',' Mr Angelbeck said.

He said the two children who were killed, Vedrana Glavas, a two-year-old retarded Serbian girl, and Roki Suleimanovic, a Muslim boy, died when snipers fired on the bus as it headed towards the Croatian-controlled Stup district in the western part of the besieged city.

A UN spokeswoman said that the bus had driven less than four miles out of Sarajevo when it came under gunfire in a particularly dangerous stretch of road known as Snipers' Alley. She identified the attackers as Serbian. Unlike previous evacuation missions, the bus had been travelling without a UN escort.

Mik Magnusson, a UN spokesman, said in an interview on BBC television: 'To me it borders on being criminally negligent to take children or anyone else for that matter into a known war zone at a time when the fighting starts every day.'

The 36 remaining orphans on the bus were driven on to Fojnica, 35 miles north-west of Sarajevo, and should set off today for Split, Mr Angelbeck said. They would then be flown to Germany, he said, although two of the children were ill.

Sarajevo itself had no reprieve from Serbian bombardment over the weekend. One mortar bomb hit the UN headquarters on the city's outskirts yesterday morning, causing damage but no injuries. The Bosnian capital is virtually encircled by Serbian forces encamped on the nearby hills, and its mainly Muslim and Croatian defenders have been under siege for almost four months.

However, a few residents have succeeded recently in breaking out of the city and have travelled by bus to Split. The UN is trying to establish a land corridor between Split and Sarajevo so that relief supplies can be taken by road to the 300,000 people in the Bosnian capital. The other way in is by air, but this is both expensive and dangerous, as the battles are often fiercest around Sarajevo airport.

In Bucharest, Milan Panic, Prime Minister of the rump Yugoslavia, called yesterday for a conference in Bucharest between ex-Yugoslav republics. 'I wish to see the problems solved by us ourselves, without interference from outside. The international community will be invited to help us, but it is not necessary that they come if we do not ask them to. If there are to be any invitations, they will first of all be to our neighbours,' said Mr Panic.

LONDON - Britain should accept more Bosnian refugees, Michael Meacher, Labour spokesman on overseas development, said last night. The killing of the two orphans in the evacuation convoy, he said, was 'an appalling atrocity' which should focus minds on the need for more action, writes Colin Brown.

Calling on Britain to convene an EC conference on the refugee crisis, Mr Meacher accused Baroness Chalker, the Minister of State for Overseas Development, of 'disreputable' behaviour by refusing, at the UNHCR conference in Geneva, to accept more than 1,300 refugees. The Government's proposal for safe havens inside Bosnia was 'the flimsiest cover for callous indifference', Mr Meacher said.

In Geneva, the International Red Cross (ICRC) said yesterday that it was trying to visit two Serbian detention camps in Bosnia-Herzegovina where a press report said hundreds of civilians had been executed or died of hunger.

(Photograph omitted)