UK unit to fly out after Bosnia clash

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The Independent Online
THE BRITISH reconnaissance party exploring routes for aid convoys into Bosnia was due to fly back to Germany last night after being trapped on Tuesday by gunfire in Vitez, central Bosnia, where the army hopes to establish its northernmost battalion base.

Yesterday confusion still surrounded the incident, in which two small parties, about 30 men in all, from the Cheshire Regiment and the 35 Engineer Regiment, encountered crossfire as they attempted to leave Vitez and return to Split, in Croatia, which will be the main base for the British force.

Army sources said reports that British troops were already established in Vitez were untrue and that they were still looking for accommodation in Split.

The Cheshires will return to Croatia, en route for Bosnia, next week, when the advance party will arrive in Split by air between 27 and 29 October. The force is expected to be operational from about 15 November.

Until the advance party arrives next week there will be just two bodies of British soldiers forming part of the UN force in Bosnia. The first will set up the headquarters to be used by the British force commander in Split. There will also be a small number of British personnel who will move to the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, to set up the international Bosnia force headquarters.

Of the 2,400 British troops who will eventually form part of the UN Bosnia force, only about 500 will be from the Cheshire Regiment. The rest of the 750-strong infantry battalion will be men from the new Royal Irish Regiment. The remainder will be armoured reconnaissance troops.

Nato defence ministers yesterday said they were 'deeply disturbed by the continuing violence and destruction in and around Europe and, in particular, we deplore the tragic and worsening situation in the former Yugoslavia'.

They pledged to intensify the alliance's preparations for peace- keeping activities in Europe and said it stood ready to provide more support for peace efforts in the former Yugoslavia.