Siege of Sarajevo declared at an end
Peace in Bosnia: Blow to multi-national ideal as Serbs flee from suburb passing into Muslim-Croat control
Friday 01 March 1996
The Bosnian government reclaimed control of Ilijas four years to the day after Bosnian Muslims and Croats voted in a referendum to declare independence from former Yugoslavia.
Most Bosnian Serbs, who made up about one-third of Bosnia's pre-war population, boycotted the referendum, and full-scale conflict broke out in early April 1992.
Ilijas is one of five Serb-controlled suburbs of Sarajevo that the Dayton peace agreement stipulated should return to Muslim-Croat authority. As in the case of Vogosca, the first suburb to pass under Muslim-Croat control last week, most Serb residents of Ilijas had fled their homes in the days preceding the handover.
Out of 17,000 people who lived in Ilijas at the end of the war, only about 2,000 were still there at the beginning of this week, according to United Nations officials.
The evacuation of Serbs continued up to the last minute, with seven buses taking women and elderly people out of Ilijas on Wednesday afternoon for the northern Bosnian Serb city of Banja Luka.
Tens of thousands of Serbs have left the five suburbs ahead of the handover of power, which is due to be completed by 20 March. Many have abandoned their homes under pressure from Bosnian Serb authorities, who have whipped up fears of Muslim persecution and made normal life all but impossible by stripping the suburbs of their infrastructure.
UN police said that some Serb residents had set ablaze an apartment block and several houses and cars in the 24 hours before the transfer of power in Ilijas. Most homes were empty.
The departure of the Serbs has struck a severe blow at international efforts to reconstitute Sarajevo as the multi-national capital of a united Bosnia. The aim of the Bosnian Serb authorities appears to be the permanent physical separation of Serbs from Muslims and Croats, a goal they did not fully achieve during the war.
The minority of Serbs who remain loyal to the Bosnian government and believe in a multi-national Bosnia have been shocked by the tactics of the Bosnian Serb leaders based in Pale, outside Sarajevo. In a letter to the US Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, the pro-government Serb Civic Council said: "Under pressure from the Pale authorities, Serbs are being pushed into an exodus of the worst kind.
"They are being forced to abandon and burn their own houses and homes and to go into the unknown ... Unfortunately, the international community, as in the case of Srebrenica, is quietly watching this tragedy and the final stages of the ethnic division of Bosnia-Herzegovina."
Some international observers have blamed Muslim authorities for stoking the fears of Serb civilians. Michael Steiner, an assistant to Carl Bildt, the top European Union representative in Bosnia, said Muslim policemen who entered Vogosca last week had torn down the Serb flag and trampled on it.
"This is exactly what happened - before the eyes of the Serb population, before Serb cameras. You can imagine what a disastrous effect this has on those who are still thinking about staying in the town," he said.
The US ambassador to Bosnia, John Menzies, visited Ilijas to watch the transfer of power and expressed the hope that Serbs who had left their homes would gradually trickle back. "Damage in the town looks relatively limited. The city of Sarajevo is knitting itself back together again," he said.
Control of Ilijas was crucial to the Bosnian Serbs' wartime strategy of maintaining a stranglehold on Sarajevo. It prevented the Muslim-led forces from capturing the main road north out of Sarajevo and linking the capital with Visoko, a government-controlled town .
International Women's Day 2014: The shocking statistics that show why it is still so important
Feminist quotes to inspire you on the International Women's Day
Oscar Pistorius trial first week: Never mind a media scrum – murder case becomes bizarre safari following the tracks of a wounded lion
International Women’s Day: 'When a man gives his opinion, he's a man. When a woman gives her opinion, she's a bitch' - feminist quotes from female icons to inspire you
Malaysia Airlines plane: Hundreds feared dead as Vietnam air force finds oil slicks found in sea
Apple's Tim Cook: Business isn’t just about making profit
Thousands of young people forced to go without food after benefits wrongly stopped under 'draconian' new sanctions regime
Ukraine crisis: New navy chief 'defects' and surrenders Crimean HQ as Putin claims ultranationalists forced intervention
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
Ukraine crisis: Russia dismisses '3am ultimatum' as 'total nonsense'
If you're horrified by a flame-roasted dog, you should be shocked at a hog roast
- 1 To those who can’t see the point of International Women’s Day: you are the very reason it exists
- 2 International Women's Day 2014: The shocking statistics that show why it is still so important
- 4 Orgasm machine to deliver climax at the push of a button
£12000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: A small but growing chain of boutique hot...
£12000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: The company works with Tier 1 FTSE 100 Ba...
£45 - 60k Per Annum: Charter Selection: Highly profitable leisure brand, marke...
£30000 - £50000 per annum + Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: Residenti...