Mercy flights resume to besieged city

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The Independent Online
SARAJEVO (AFP) - The airlift to Sarajevo resumed yesterday, with a Canadian C-130 arriving from Ancona, on Italy's Adriatic coast.

United Nations staff at the airport said a total of 18 flights were scheduled to arrive yesterday after a 16-day suspension which started when a shell came close to an incoming British relief plane during a battle around the airport between Serbian forces and troops of the mainly Muslim Bosnian army.

The flights are organised by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, but the planes and crews are those of the air forces of France, Britain, the United States, Germany and Canada. The people of Sarajevo, under siege by Serbian gunners on the surrounding mountains for a year, depend on relief flights and convoys for food, fuel and medical supplies.

However, at least seven people died and 28 were wounded in fighting that broke a ceasefire in Sarajevo yesterday, hospital and mortuary officials said. Among the wounded were 14 children, some of whom were treated for shrapnel wounds. Sarajevo radio said more than 20 shells fell on New Sarajevo, a high-rise residential district to the west of the old city. If confirmed, this would be the most serious breach of the ceasefire which began last Sunday. The self-declared parliament of the Bosnian Serbs rejected the UN peace plan for Bosnia-Herzegovina at the weekend.

Sarajevo radio also reported heavy Serbian shelling of the northern Bosnian town of Tuzla, a refugee centre holding some 70,000 Muslims. It said the Serbian forces bombarded the centre of the town and the surrounding region with tanks and mortars.

The reports came on the eighth day of a ceasefire throughout Bosnia which had held in most parts of the former Yugoslav republic, the first ceasefire to do so in the year-long war. The shelling of Tuzla reportedly stopped just before noon. The radio also said Serbian forces shelled the central town of Kladanj. At nearby Olovo, the radio said, the Serbs attacked with 155mm artillery. It also reported Serbian attacks around Maglaj, in the north, with mortars, artillery and tanks over the 24 hours to midday yesterday. No immediate confirmation of the attacks could be obtained from the UN Protection Force. Serbian infantry was said to have attacked in the north-western Bihac pocket. Around Gorazde, the radio said, two helicopters had been spotted, as well as one near Maglaj.