Sarajevo’s streets were largely deserted Saturday as shells slammed into residential areas in the heart of the city, killing at least 12 people and wounding dozens of others.
At least 62 people were wounded, according to the Bosnian Health Ministry. Streets where apartment buildings had been hit were littered with debris and shattered glass. Blood stains marked where casualties had fallen.
The U.N. forces chief-of-staff in Bosnia, Brig. Gen. Kees Nicolai, sent a letter to Bosnian Serb commander Gen. Ratko Mladic demanding an immediate halt to recent shelling of residential areas and U.N. facilities.
Nicolai accused Mladic of violating the Geneva Convention and other treaties, and warned, “such killing of civilians is liable to trials by an international court.”
Mladic has been named as a war crimes suspect by an International Tribunal in the Hague.
A U.N. spokesman accused the Serbs of deliberately attacking U.N. facilities.
On Thursday, two mortar shells hit the headquarters of French troops. U.N. observations posts and camps elsewhere in and around the city were targeted with rifle-grenades and small arms fire.
Lt. Col. Gary Coward said a number of the attacks started at the same time.
“It is more than likely in our view that these attacks were direct and deliberate targeting of U.N. facilities and personnel,” Coward said. “It could have been to kill (or) it could have been to send a message.”
On Friday, Coward had said the mortars were in response to government attacks from weapons placed near the U.N. building, and he had appealed to the government to stop attacking from those positions. The Serbs on Friday denied shelling the U.N. facility.
Serb shelling of the city has increased since the Muslim-led government army launched an offensive two weeks ago to crack the three-year-old siege.
On Saturday, more than 50 shells hit residential and shopping areas in the city center, and 12 landed near the French Embassy, said U.N. spokesman Maj. Guy Vinet.
A rocket bomb, carrying hundreds of pounds of explosives, hit a garden in the old town, but caused no casualties. Two similar bombs that blasted holes in the city’s TV center and a nearby apartment block Wednesday killed five people and wounded dozens.
Government and Serb troops battled Saturday around the Serb-held southwestern Sarajevo suburb of Nedzarici, which borders the U.N.-controlled airport.
Fighting also was reported around a village further to the southwest. Bosnian Serbs said five civilians were wounded in Serb-held suburbs.