Serb push puts Bihac at risk

Balkan conflict: Thinly-stretched Bosnian government forces flee as Mladic's men seize back land they lost last month

The Bosnian Serb army has seized back territory captured last month by the mainly Muslim Bosnian government Fifth Corps in a counter-attack that has brought Serb artillery perilously close to the town of Bihac. Near Sanski Most, Bosnian soldiers were forced to run for their lives amid a hail of anti-aircraft fire and air attacks.

The Serbs have also pushed to within six miles of Bosanska Krupa, where refugees have already returned to homes occupied by the Serbs for three years, and shelled the outskirts of the town on Sunday, prompting concern among international observers that Bihac, 18 miles to the south, is at risk. "If they move south, then they can start shelling Bihac again, which they will do at the first opportunity," one said.

Although the UN yesterday reported that Krupa had been placed on red alert, the observers said it was calm yesterday morning, with no signs of panic among the returning civilian population. However, helicopters were seen moving in and out of Bihac, probably ferrying wounded from the front lines.

Fifth Corps soldiers, acting in concert with the Croatian Army pushing from the south, seized thousands of square miles of territory around a main road linking Bihac to central Bosnia via the town of Jajce, and moved within artillery range of the Serbs' northern stronghold, Banja Luka. But in the past few days, Serb forces have begun to retaliate, capitalising on the exhaustion of the thinly stretched Bosnian soldiers.

On Sunday, a brigade moving west towards Sanski Most through a narrow finger of land sticking into Serb territory came under heavy fire from three sides, and was almost cut off as Galeb jets bombed their positions. One witness said the brigade was exhausted even before the planned Bosnian attack.

"Then the Serbs launched a counter-attack, so the troops who were to attack were tied up in that, and the soldiers just panicked," he said, adding that he and the others ran for their lives through a wave of explosive bullets. "The Serbs had 150 Muslim forced labourers digging trenches on the front line the government forces were supposed to attack, which did not improve their morale."

However, the observer did not assess the defeat as catastrophic, adding that although the Bosnian forces lost the finger of land, their lines seemed to be holding firm at the base. "I don't think the Bosnian Serbs can capitalise as much as they should," said another military expert. "I don't think there is any real problem [for Fifth Corps] at the moment."

The Fifth Corps might now decide that their chances of taking Sanski Most before the winter are slim, and could concentrate instead on holding the line around Bosanska Krupa and pushing on the Serb-held town of Mrkonjic Grad.

This is the last remaining obstacle on the road south-east from Bihac to central Bosnia: capture of the road would bring huge benefits to the Bosnian government, which would have a firm link with Bihac and a much shorter supply route from Croatia to central Bosnia.

Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

News
A Brazilian wandering spider
news

World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas

Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

News
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech

Company decides to go for simply scary after criticising other sites for 'creepy and targeted' advertising

Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
News
news

Footage shot by a passerby shows moment an ill man was carried out of his burning home

Voices
Sol Campbell near his home in Chelsea
voices
News
i100
News
Kimi the fox cub
newsBurberry under fire from animal rights group - and their star, Kimi
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

***Sports Graduate***

£50 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Preston: This role has arisen due to inc...

Business StudiesTeacher

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Bu...

***Are you a Support Worker? or a Youth Worker? ***

£50 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Preston: The RoleDue to demand we are cu...

**SEN Primary Teacher Serf Unit **

£110 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Preston: We are looking for an experie...

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past