Serbian rout of Bosnian forces

THE Bosnian city of Jajce was reported to be on the brink of falling to Serbian forces yesterday, completing the rout of the Bosnian troops loyal to the government of President Alija Izetbegovic.

The imminent loss of Jajce follows a series of battles between Muslims and Croats in the heart of the republic, which have underlined the Muslims' all-but- hopeless military position.

Bosnian forces on Monday night claimed the Croats had razed the mainly Muslim town of Prozor, west of Sarajevo, expelling more than 3,000 inhabitants, after bombarding the town with more than 1,000 shells. They said Croatian troops fired on Muslims as they fled the town. Muslims lost battles with Croats last week for control over Vitez and Novi Travnik in central Bosnia.

The Croatian news agency, Hina, later reported that the Croatian and Muslim forces had signed an 'immediate and unconditional' ceasefire in Prozor, providing for the return of all those who had fled the town.

The Serbs claim they already control parts of Jajce, whose inhabitants are mostly Muslim and which has held off a siege for five months. Serbian commanders issued an order forbidding soldiers from desecrating the town's wealth of Muslim monuments. They claimed that the city's defenders were retreating towards Travnik, which is controlled by Croats. Bosnian radio said the city could fall 'within hours' and claimed several hundred people had been killed in the fighting.

Bosnian Croats and Muslims were formerly allies against the Serbs, whose overwhelming military superiority posed an equal threat to both communities. Together they outvoted Bosnian Serbs in a referendum in March over independence from Yugoslavia. But the alliance foundered after the outbreak of fighting in April, as their military and political aims diverged.

While the Croats enjoyed an early success in seizing territories they wanted, poorly armed Muslims lost ground everywhere. The military imbalance degraded the Muslim alliance in Croatian eyes. At the same time political differences widened. Muslim leaders champion the idea of Bosnia as a centralised state. The Croats want to run their own region, called 'Herzeg-Bosnia', with minimal reference to Sarajevo.

An informal detente between Croats and Serbs has now replaced the earlier pact with the Muslims. The leaders of these two communities in the southern Herzegovina region yesterday agreed to honour a three-day ceasefire.

The breaking of ties between Croats and Muslims has cut off the only supply route between Muslim-held cities in central Bosnia and the Croatian sea ports. It is a severe blow to President Izetbegovic, who has steadfastly backed a joint front against the Serbs. Mr Izetbegovic and President Franjo Tudjman of Croatia hold regular meetings, where they publicly affirm an alliance. In practice, Croatia is backing away from its erstwhile allies in Sarajevo, and supporting the disgruntled Croats of Herzeg-Bosnia.

Mr Izetbegovic's position has been undermined by regular reports of plots to oust him. The reports may be wishful thinking on the part of the Serbian and Croatian leaders, but they have done their job by belittling his stature as President. In December he is due to relinquish his rotating office.

Outflanked on all sides and reduced to small pockets of land in the centre and east of the republic, the Muslims are now more than ever dependent on the efforts of the peace mediators, Lord Owen and Cyrus Vance, to save Bosnia from partition between Serbs and Croats. In Geneva the two mediators on Monday unveiled a fresh plan to halt the war. Under the proposed plan, Bosnia will be divided into several autonomous regions. It looked like a diplomatic move to thwart a Serbian-Croatian carve up. But it may have come too late.

(Photograph and map omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor