Sarajevo Erupts in Heaviest Fighting in More Than a Year
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ Mortar fire rocked downtown Sarajevo and nearby front lines today during the worst fighting the Bosnian capital has seen in over a year. At least one person, a 12-year-old girl, was killed.
U.N. officials reported fierce fighting in at least five areas of Sarajevo, which has been besieged by Serbs since April 1992.
Several mortar explosions resounded every minute, along with heavy machine-gun and small-arms fire. Residents said it was the heaviest fighting since February 1994, when a NATO threat of air strikes forced heavy weapons away from the immediate perimeter of the city.
However, the so-called ``weapons-free zone″ that extends for 12 1/2 miles around the city is being increasingly ignored, particularly by Serbs.
The Bosnian army accused its Serb foes of targeting the city with tank fire today, while Serbs charged that the government had launched an offensive south of the city to cut a Serb supply line.
A brother and sister were hit by shrapnel in the northern part of the city, hospital officials said. The girl, 12-year-old Azra Buljubasic, was dead upon arrival at Kosevo Hospital. Doctors said her 17-year-old brother, Nedim, was severely wounded in the head and unlikely to survive.
In a related development, a French peacekeeper shot by a sniper in Sarajevo last week died of his head wound, the army said today.
The 23-year-old soldier, El Hadj Houidef, was airlifted to the French port city of Toulon after he was shot Thursday on Sarajevo’s so-called ``Sniper Alley.″ He died Monday at a hospital, the army said, the 37th French peacekeeper to be killed in Bosnia and Croatia since 1992.
Today’s violence in the Bosnian capital was a sharp escalation of fighting that killed one and wounded four around Sarajevo late Sunday and Monday.
Overnight, 19 explosions were counted by the United Nations, mostly in the southwestern Jewish Cemetery area. Four were close to the suburb of Dobrinja, near the airport.
There were no immediate reports of casualties.
Outside Sarajevo, Serbs targeted the only road connecting the city to the outside over Mount Igman.
There was also fighting overnight in Bosnia’s northwestern Bihac region. Fighting eased overnight in the Orasje area to the northeast, the site of three days of clashes between Bosnian Croats and Serbs trying to keep their corridor linking Bosnian and Croatian Serb holdings with Serbia proper.
Bosnian radio on Monday reported increased fighting elsewhere around the corridor, at Brcko, south of Orasje. Serbs were said to be using tanks and artillery against the mostly Muslim government troops.
The Bosnian Serb SRNA news agency said government forces were concentrating infantry, heavy artillery and tanks south of the corridor.
Through much of the war, fighting has focused around the Serb supply route, which is less than three miles wide at Brcko.
In neighboring Croatia, heavily armed Croatian troops and rebel Serbs faced off inside U.N.-monitored buffer zones, rendering the 13,000-strong U.N. force for Croatia largely powerless.
At the United Nations in New York, Croatian Ambassador Mario Nobilo said Croat troops would withdraw from the zones within 24 hours, according to Security Council President Jean-Bernard Merimee.
Croatian government troops remained at the edge of three Serb-held areas of Croatia, despite a weekend promise to pull back.
The confrontation maintained the tensions following a May 1 Croatian offensive that regained a chunk of territory won by Serbs in a six-month war in 1991.