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
Disruption at Waterloo after a person was hit by a train
newsCancellations and disrupted service after person hit by train
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
The almost deserted Liverpool Echo Arena on Monday
tvCan X Factor last in the face of plummeting numbers auditioning
News
Kirsty Bertarelli is launching a singing career with an album of songs detailing her observations of “real life”
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence