Thousands still missing after fall of Srebrenica

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As more details emerged of the battle to escape from the Srebrenica enclave, the Bosnian authorities yesterday demanded action to find and rescue the estimated 10,000 people still unaccounted for.

There were some 42,000 people in the enclave in 1993. Yesterday the UN refugee camp at Tuzla had registered 6,440 refugees, mainly women, children and old men, with a further 10,500 in camps nearby. Another 11,000 are believed to be in the surrounding area.

The figure of 10,000 missing is therefore speculative, based on a 1993 estimate, which disregards the number who may have died or escaped during two years of hard conditions.

More information, however, has come to light on the exodus from the enclave.

A column of about 10,000, mostly men, but with some women who feared their fate at the hands of the Bosnian Serbs, headed north-west from Srebrenica towards Tuzla. They headed for a border crossing near Kalesija. They were ambushed several times - the worst occasion being at Konjevic Pole, where, according to refugees reaching the Tuzla camp, up to 3,000 were killed.

The next enclave in the Serbs' sights, Zepa, has continued to resist, partly because the Serbs had to divert substantial forces to try to prevent the escape of a significant armed Muslim force from Srebrenica. The UN wants to take refugees from Zepa to Zenica, in central Bosnia, but the Bosnian authorities may want to send them to Tuzla.

There have also been reports that the Bosnian authorities have asked for money from the UN to look after the refugees, while the UN is anxious to pass responsibility for them to the Bosnians.

Preparations for the arrival of the remainder of the UN rapid reaction force continue, although within Bosnia speculation is growing that those preparations are for a withdrawal.

The British 24 airmobile brigade is to be based at Ploce, on Bosnia-Herzegovina's short stretch of coastline. It is an excellent deep-water port and sources reported a US ship off shore yesterday, suggesting that reconnaissance for a withdrawal, in which US forces would play a major role, is under way.