Serbs erupt in violence over arrest of officers

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Festering grievances over the Dayton peace plan erupted into violence and reprisals in Bosnia yesterday with a gun attack on a Sarajevo bus and the detention by Bosnian Serb forces of Muslims for investigation into allegations of war crimes.

The latest crisis, fanned by the extradition on Monday to The Hague war-crimes tribunal of two Serb officers, detained last month by the Bosnian government, is exacerbated by the Serbs' refusal to talk to Nato.

Officials say they have had no contact with senior Serb officers for a week, in breach of the peace agreement. Serb civilians have boycotted meetings with international organisations.

A gunman, thought to be a Serb, badly wounded one man and injured another yesterday, firing two bursts at a bus travelling from Ilidza, a Serb-held suburb, towards Sarajevo, on the first day of a new service intended to bridge the gap between the old enemies.

A pool of blood on the floor of the bus marked the spot where Sergije Markovic was sitting when both feet were shattered by bullets. A driver, Sadik Sadikovic, was grazed by a bullet in the first armed attack against civilians in Sarajevo since a missile attack on a tram killed a woman in December.

The bus service started yesterday to help people on both sides of the line resume contact; it was suspended after the shooting pending an investigation by I-For, the Nato-led Implementation Force, and Bosnian police.

Nato's relations with the Serbs are worsening. Radovan Karadzic, the Serb leader indicted for war crimes who is liable to arrest by I-For troops, yesterday described the extradition of General Djordje Djukic and Colonel Aleksa Krsmanovic as "yet another international shame".

In his first comment since the men's departure by Nato plane for The Hague, Mr Karadzic, whose government has refused to attend civilian meetings for several weeks, told the Bosnian Serb news agency: "The dignity of the Serb people does not allow that on one side constructive negotiations are conducted under the supposition that hostilities have ended, and on the other that the hostilities have resumed in the form of arrests of high-ranking Serb officers."

Several hours later the news agency, SRNA, reported that an unspecified number of Muslims had been arrested in the eastern town of Foca on suspicion of having committed war crimes. During the war only one Muslim was said to have remained in Foca, which had a pre-war Muslim majority.

A Nato spokesman said I-For had not discussed the bus attack or reported arrests of the Muslims with Serb officials; the ban on talks with Nato ordered by General Ratko Mladic, the Serb commander indicted by the war crimes tribunal, seems still to be in effect.

"All but emergency communications have been cut off," Lt-Col Mark Rayner said yesterday morning. "This unilateral boycott ... constitutes a serious violation of the Dayton peace agreement."

Richard Holbrooke, father of the Dayton plan, left the region on Tuesday announcing that "bumps in the road" had been ironed out.

Col Rayner said Nato forces were "seeking guidance" over apprehending suspected war criminals following reports that troops lacked photographs of the indicted men. Nato was also considering setting up additional road blocks to make arrests more likely, Nato sources in Brussels said.

As the Dayton deal starts to crumble, Washington has asked Italy to host a summit of the presidents of Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia in the next few days, Italy's Foreign Minister, Susanna Agnelli. said yesterday. nThe Hague - The UN war crimes tribunal said yesterday its first trial, of the Bosnian Serb Dusan Tadic, would begin on 7 May, Reuter reports. The chief prosecutor, Richard Goldstone, said the tribunal is expected to issue its first indictments against Bosnian Muslims soon.