UK soldier killed in mystery shooting

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A BRITISH soldier was killed by gunfire in central Bosnia yesterday, the first Briton to die in the current operation. In a tragic twist of fate, the driver of a Warrior Infantry Fighting vehicle fell to Muslim or Croat bullets in the mainly Muslim town of Gornji Vakuf, well away from Serb forces who have attacked British forces in the last few days.

The tragedy came the day before the Cabinet meets to authorise reinforcements for the British Bosnia force. British troops came under heavy Serb artillery fire on Friday and Sunday, and were lucky not to suffer casualties.

Since the 2,400 British troops deployed in October as part of the UN operation to protect humanitarian aid, an uneasy truce had reigned between the Muslims and Croats as they both fought the Serbs, who continued to try to seize areas of Bosnia. British personnel felt relatively safe among Croats or Muslims, who treated the British forces, whom they saw as a deterrent to Serb aggression, with respect.

But since Monday night there had been renewed fighting between Muslims and Croats in the Gornji Vakuf area. It was particularly intense on Tuesday, with small-arms and mortar fire.

Last night the Ministry of Defence named the dead soldier as Lance-Corporal Wayne John 'Eddie' Edwards, 26, single, from Wrexham, Clwyd, of 1st Battalion the Royal Welch Fusiliers, serving with the Cheshire Regiment battalion group. The Warrior was one of two armoured vehicles escorting a civilian charity ambulance.

The ministry said they were still investigating how L/Cpl Edwards died and taking statements from witnesses. It was unclear whether he drove into crossfire or whether anybody aimed at the Warrior deliberately. 'We honestly do not know whether it was deliberate, or intended for us or someone else,' a spokeswoman said. 'We may never know.'

Gornji Vakuf, where a 250- strong British force is based, lies on the main resupply route from Croatia through the mountains to the British base and UN depot at Vitez.

DOUGLAS HURD, the Foreign Secretary, yesterday expressed sorrow at the killing of L/Cpl Edwards but continued to rule out military action to impose a solution in Bosnia, writes Stephen Goodwin.

'We do not believe that a political answer can be imposed on Bosnia by military force. That is not the purpose of troops, nor will it be,' Mr Hurd told the Commons. He said British troops had saved many lives by escorting 147 convoys, which had delivered 12,000 tons of humanitarian aid.