UN alarm as French shoot 4 Bosnians

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The Independent Online
The United Nations in Sarajevo is investigating the shooting of four Bosnian soldiers by French peace-keepers patrolling the demilitarised zone around Mount Igman, an incident that prompted questions among UN staff at the legality of the operationand political unease at this unusual use of force. A French patrol spotted around 30 Bosnian soldiers infiltrating the DMZ on Saturday, ordered them in vain to leave, and then, it was reported, fired warning shots. According to the French report, conveyed by Lieutenant-Colonel Gary Coward, a UN spokesmanin Sarajevo: "As a result of [the Bosnians] walking into the warning shots, or of ricochets, four were hit."

UN sources said three soldiers were hit in the legs while one had a chest wound.

Peace-keepers normally have the right to fire only in defence of themselves, their colleagues or their property, at those attempting to hinder their mandate, or to stop forces entering a UN "safe area" in Bosnia or UN Protected Area in Croatia. Warning shots must be fired directly into the air, "not aimed shots above the target".

Such rights are rarely exercised in Bosnia, where Serb forces routinely harass and threaten the UN, and Saturday's incident outraged several UN officials angered by the double standards. "In practice, Unprofor [the UN Protection Force] has chosen not to use force when it's called for in UN resolutions," one source said. "We get our equipment stolen, our troops held hostage, our soldiers strip-searched, Nato classified photos stolen, all by the Serbs, and all circumstances in which we could use force butchoose not to.

The French soldiers on Igman would have every right to shoot if threatened by the Bosnians. Asked if any threats had been made, Colonel Coward said: "I don't believe so." He said both the circumstances of the incident - the alleged ricocheting of warningshots in a field of mud and snow - and the peace-keepers' right to shoot, were under investigation.