French target Serb gun near Sarajevo

Bosnia crisis: EU mediator's convoy comes under fire leaving Sarajevo as peace-keepers threaten Bosnian Serb cannon

EMMA DALY

Sarajevo

For the first time since their deployment on Mount Igman two weeks ago, French UN troops armed with heavy mortars fired a large smoke bomb at a Bosnian Serb gun position which was shooting at UN traffic on the treacherous mountain road into Sarajevo.

A convoy of 17 armoured personnel carriers transporting food and other supplies into the city was hit by rounds fired from a Serb cannon, one of several that target the road.

Carl Bildt, the European peace envoy, who was forced to travel the Igman road to and from Sarajevo on Friday, said his convoy was also attacked.

"You can certainly hear the shooting," he said. "There were shots that passed between the armoured cars in our convoy." The perilous route, normally travelled only by Bosnians, journalists, some aid agencies and others denied Serb permission to enter Sarajevo, is now in use by the UN to bring in troops and supplies. The Serbs are at present denying clearance for UN convoys along roads they hold.

Yesterday several mortar rounds and at least one rocket landed close to the UN headquarters in western Sarajevo, wounding five or six people, a spokesman said.

A young boy was shot dead by sniper fire on Sarajevo's main street in the afternoon as he rode his bicycle past French peacekeepers who were on an anti-sniping patrol. The boy carried no papers. His body lay unidentified in the morgue an hour later and his bike lay abandoned in the street where it fell, too exposed to risk retrieving.

The French smoke bomb, fired from a 120mm mortar used yesterday for the first time since the UN deployed on top of Igman, landed near the offending gun. It did no damage but proved the UN could hit the spot and was accompanied by a phone call to the local Bosnian Serb barracks warning that unless the firing stopped, the next UN round would be a regular mortar bomb.

UN positions have been shot at 17 times in the past week, 15 times by the Serbs, but peace-keepers have returned fire only twice. Both instances involved French soldiers at Hotonj, north of Sarajevo, who destroyed a Bosnian Serb tank on one occasion.

Yesterday's smoke bomb was the first UN use of artillery fire in Bosnia. A fierce exchange of fire, including five Serb rockets, erupted early yesterday morning around the western suburbs of Stup, Nedarici and Rajlovac, but the UN could not assess which side had fired first or what was the outcome.

n London (Reuter) - A British soldier with the UN peace-keeping troops in Bosnia died after shooting himself, but the Ministry of Defence, which identified the soldier as Private Darren Hole of Bournemouth, could not say whether he had committed suicide.

"He shot himself. There will be an inquiry," an MoD spokeswoman said. Hole was serving in the Devon and Dorset Regiment in the central Bosnian town of Vitez.

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