Serbs Scorn Longer Truce, Bomb Bihac One Killed As Flagrant Violations Place U.N. Mission In Jeopardy
Serb jets dropped two cluster bombs on the embattled Bihac region of northwestern Bosnia Saturday, killing one person and wounding four, U.N. officials said.
The bombing, the first in Bosnia since November, was a flagrant breach of the no-fly zone over Bosnia. It came amid fighting that erupted across the country’s northern region as the government and rebel Serbs scorned appeals to renew a much-ignored truce that ends at noon Monday.
The U.N. mission in Bosnia appears increasingly fragile. U.N. peacekeepers came under direct attack in four different places, and even NATO jets called in to buzz over Serb-held Doboj after Scandinavian peacekeepers were shelled there failed to stop shelling, said U.N. spokesman Alexander Ivanko.
Fighting was fierce in the government-held Bihac enclave, which borders Serb-held Croatian territory and has been under attack since last fall by Croatian and Bosnian Serbs and renegade Muslim forces.
At about 3:15 p.m. (6:15 a.m. PDT), two jets flew right to the edge of the U.N.-declared “safe area” in Bihac, U.N. spokesmen said.
“The U.N. believes the jets released two cluster bombs,” Ivanko said.
One detonated on the frontline village of Velika Skocaj, three miles south of Bihac. Ivanko reported that one civilian was killed and four were wounded.
U.N. investigators found what they believed to be fragments of the cluster bomb, he added.
The second bomb was dropped in a mountainous area about four miles northwest of Velika Skocaj, Ivanko said. It was not known if it caused casualties.
The jets’ target was believed to be an area from which government forces have been attacking a Serb-held radar tower for four days.
“We’re pretty sure the planes belonged to the Krajina Serbs,” said a U.N. official, insisting on anonymity. Krajina is the Serbs’ self-declared state on land they hold in Croatia.
Czech peacekeepers in neighboring Croatia saw two Galeb or Orao fighters - planes the Serbs have - flying into Croatian airspace minutes after the reported bombings, U.N. officials said.
NATO jets patrolling the skies were not in the area at the time, and were not summoned, according to the Danish U.N. commander in the Bihac region, Jesper Helsoe.
Last November, Serb jets bombed the Bihac area three times. In response, NATO launched the biggest military action of its history, sending about 50 aircraft to bomb the nearby Serb military airfield at Udbina in Croatia. But that failed to halt a Serb assault on Bihac, a U.N.-designated safe haven.
Croatian Serb headquarters in Knin, Croatia, dismissed any suggestion Saturday’s warplanes were Serb jets.
At least 70 Croatian Serbs arrived in Bihac on Saturday to fight alongside their Bosnian Serb brethren in violation of internationally recognized borders, Ivanko said.
Civilians fled a village on the Bosnian-Croatian border where at least 13 houses were burning. Bosnian Serbs had shelled the towns of Bihac and nearby Cazin late Friday. The assaults followed a government offensive in the area to capture a Serb-held radar station, he said.
Further east, NATO jets buzzed over Doboj after shells landed just 100 yards from Scandinavian peacekeepers, he said.
NATO jets buzzed over Maglaj Saturday night after two Bosnian Serb tank shells hit a British U.N. base there. A third Serb shell landed within the compound, Coward said. No one was hurt.
Earlier, Serbs fired 35 shots at U.N. peacekeepers on foot patrol near the besieged eastern enclave of Srebrenica. No one was hurt, Coward said.
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