Bosnian Serbs Squabble Amid Battlefield Losses
SANSKI MOST, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ Alarmed by government offensives and reports of battlefield losses, Bosnian Serb rebel leaders are squabbling over who’s to blame.
The rebel army commander, Gen. Ratko Mladic, has blamed bad weather and lack of money and support from civilian authorities. Bosnian Serb politicians, meanwhile, reportedly have demanded ``full control″ over their army commanders.
Bosnia’s government has been on the offensive on several important mountain ranges for nearly a month. It managed to capture a strategic communications tower last month on Mount Vlasic, about 45 miles northwest of Sarajevo.
On Sunday, military sources in the northwestern town of Sanski Most reported that the government had taken territory on the Mount Treskavica range about 18 miles south of Sarajevo, captured villages and killed 14 Serb soldiers.
The goal of the offensive on Treskavica appeared to be control of a strategic peak in advance of further attacks toward the besieged government-held enclave of Gorazde, about 30 miles to the east.
At a meeting Sunday in Sanski Most with the Serbs’ self-styled parliament, Mladic appeared to succeed in keeping discontent with the losses in check.
But at a meeting Friday in the nearby town of Prijedor, Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic’s Serbian Democratic Party, which dominates the assembly, demanded that top officials ``ensure full control″ over the military command, the Bosnian Serb news agency SRNA said.
The agency later retracted its report, citing ``imprecision in interpretation,″ but it seemed to be a clear sign of disaffection with Mladic and the military.
After hours of meetings, Karadzic early today sought to downplay reports of any dispute.
``There is no disagreement between the military and political leadership, since I am commander-in-chief,″ he told reporters at the end of the assembly session. ``I am a civilian, and commander of the army, too.″
There was no comment from military officials.
The Serb leadership has been plagued by internal accusations of fraud and embezzlement. Some top officials have accused each other of war profiteering and siphoning money abroad.
Bosnia’s warring sides have abandoned a four-month truce that formally expires May 1. Both sides say they are not interested in renewing the truce.
The Serbs control 70 percent of Bosnia’s territory. But they have lost the support of their patron, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, after they refused to accept an international peace plan that would leave them with 49 percent of Bosnia.
In Sarajevo on Sunday, U.N. spokesman Maj. Pierre Chavancy said explosions and exchanges of fire were reported along front lines Saturday and early Sunday. Almost 1,000 firing incidents were reported in the previous 24 hours, he said Sunday morning.
U.N. officials said they managed to send four planes to Sarajevo on Sunday to rotate troops and bring in supplies. The airport had been closed since April 8 because Serbs wouldn’t promise not to shoot at planes.
An estimated 200,000 people are believed to be dead or missing since the Bosnian war started in April 1992.