Serb abductions test Nato's resolve to act

Bosnia peace mission: US commander urged to ensure release of 16 Muslims and guarantee free movement of civilians

EMMA DALY

Sarajevo

Serb officials yesterday admitted detaining Bosnian citizens travelling along roads into Sarajevo supposedly secured by Nato troops, prompting the first real test for the peace force.

Despite a high-level meeting between a Nato commander and the Serbs, none of the 16 people identified by the government as detainees has been freed. And while a spokesman for Nato's peace implementation force (I- For) said free movement was an issue for Carl Bildt's civilian mission, he urged the military to intervene.

The Serbs did release three elderly Bosnians who strayed into enemy territory late on Tuesday, but they were not among the 16 listed as missing.

At a meeting yesterday between the two parties the Serbs offered to swap those arrested in a prisoner-of-war exchange, according to a source close to the talks. The Bosnian government refused: "They are all civilians," the source said.

A spokesman for I-For, which is responsible for creating a secure environment across Bosnia, insisted the matter should be dealt with by the civilian mission. Mr Bildt, its boss, finally arrived in Sarajevo yesterday, lagging behind the military by two weeks and complaining of few resources.

He accepted criticism of his slow start, but said I-For ought to help fill the vacuum. "It is important that all of the available resources here are used to try and secure freedom of movement", Mr Bildt said. His first stop would be to visit the I-For commander, Admiral Leighton Smith, to discuss the detainees. "Freedom of movement will have to be guaranteed one way or the other", he said.

William Perry, the US Defense Secretary, who also visited Sarajevo yesterday, agreed. "It's very important that the police force gets in and established ... as soon as possible. In the meantime, Nato's force will do what it can to assist."

Nato troops manning the road through the Serb-held suburb of Ilidza are now advising Bosnian civilians to travel in convoys, to prevent further abductions.

Lieutenant-General Sir Michael Walker, commander of Nato land forces in Bosnia, raised the issue of illegal detentions with the Serb mayor of Ilidza, Nedzeljko Prstojevic, yesterday. "The question, in so far as it affects the peace agreement, is unsatisfactory," the general said afterwards. "The requirements of the Dayton peace agreement are such that there is to be total freedom of movement throughout the country. This is clearly not the case."

Mr Prstojevic, wearing army fatigues, said: "There will not be any problems if civilians use the normal routes." He refused to give names or numbers of those detained, but said all but three had been released "or are now leaving prison". The three left had ventured off the main road "very far into Serb territory".

However, Bosnian officials said none of those detained had been released by nightfall.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Courtney Love has admitted using heroin while pregnant with Frances Bean Cobain, her daughter with Kurt Cobain
people
Sport
Murray celebrates reaching the final
tennis
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Support Administrator - Part Time

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the South West'...

Recruitment Genius: Secretary

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This major European Intellectual Propert...

Tradewind Recruitment: Humanities Teacher

£130 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Humanities Teacher Jan 2015 - July...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - 9-12 Months

£14500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Accounts Assistant is immedi...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness