Foreign TV crews hit by Serb rocket

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The Independent Online


The rocket attack on the television building in western Sarajevo, where all the foreign and domestic television crews are based, can only have been a deliberate attempt to kill reporters.

Modified aircraft bombs are not always accurate, but the Bosnian Serb gunners besieging Sarajevo have had a lot of practice; in the past two weeks, two such devices have landed very close to the building.

Television pictures showed Faridoun Hemani, a Canadian friend who works for Worldwide Television News (WTN), whose office absorbed much of the blast, walking around with blood pouring down his face, trying to guide others out. Doctors later said that he might lose an eye.

Margaret Moth, a CNN camerawoman, tried to help Mr Hemani to leave the building, but he told her he was worried about his colleagues. A woman working for WTN was also badly injured.

"He said 'I've lost my eye' - he said it several times and he was so calm about it, it was awful," Ms Moth said. "He was incredible, very concerned to help other people first."

A mortar bomb landed outside an hour later, and an apartment building across the road, in a district that has come under repeated tank and rocket fire, was severely damaged after the television-centre blast. At least four people were killed as part of the building collapsed. For the next couple of hours, explosions resounded in the area.

The television building, comprising four storeys of concrete, was built for the 1984 Winter Olympics. It has absorbed many shells over the past three years, but nothing as devastating as the rocket that landed yesterday in a courtyard at the back.

Three Bosnians working for Associated Press Television (AP TV), Eldar Emric, Asja Resavac and Mirsad Helac, were hurt, but are in a stable condition. The second-floor offices of WTN, APTV and the European Broadcasting Union, which overlook the crash site, were completely destroyed. Rubble, ceiling beams, scattered video tapes and tons of shattered glass littered the building.

Given the damage, it is remarkable that only one person, a policeman in the lobby, was killed. The injured were ferried out by their colleagues amid the dust and blood.

Dave Albritton, an American CNN staffer cut by flying glass, was carried out on a stretcher stained with blood. Doctors at the UN medical centre said they expected him to recover.

The CNN office, across the corridor from WTN, was also damaged but the crew managed to broadcast live, shortly after the event. ''We heard something hit the TV stations but it didn't sound a big deal,'' said Ms Moth, who was seriously wounded in Sarajevo in 1993. "Then suddenly everything came falling down on us."

Once the wounded had been evacuated, she went back to work: "From out of the rubble we managed to pick up what we needed and miraculously everything worked and we went live."

nBrussels (Reuter) - Nato gave provisional approval yesterday to a plan to send thousands of troops to Bosnia to cover the withdrawal of the UN peace-keepers if their mission collapses, a Nato spokesman said.

Military planners envisage sending about 60,000 troops into Bosnia in the biggest military operation conducted by the alliance. Close to half the troops are expected to be American. The spokesman said Nato saw the withdrawal of troops as a last resort. "Nato's planning for a possible UN withdrawal is therefore on a contingency basis only," he said.