The triumphant Serb commander strode among Srebrenica’s captured population Wednesday, patting one boy on the head, as his rebels herded terrified Muslims aboard buses for deportation.
Relishing the latest U.N. humiliation, Gen. Ratko Mladic arrived on the heels of his infantry after they seized the main peacekeeper camp that once protected the civilians of the U.N.-declared “safe area” around Srebrenica.
The Serbs took charge of 40,000 hungry and desperate refugees from Srebrenica who sought refuge at the camp just north of the town, in Potocari. They herded women, children and the elderly aboard buses and trucks, separating them from all men over 16, who were held for interrogation.
The Serb rebels requested fuel for the convoys to territory held by the Muslim-led government, but a U.N. official said that would be denied.
“We are not going to assist this in any way,” said Kris Janowski, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. “This pure ‘ethnic cleansing,’ we cannot involve ourselves in this.”
A main purpose of the U.N. presence in Bosnia was to prevent combatants from persecuting and deporting civilians of other ethnicities. Muslim, Croat and Serb combatants have all been accused of such “ethnic cleansing” and other atrocities, but Serbs have by far received the most blame.
More than 1,500 Srebrenica refugees arrived late Wednesday night at a U.N. air base east of governmentheld Tuzla. Another 1,500 were expected during the night.
In Tuzla, refugee Zena Hasanovic, 24, said she saw Serb soldiers kill a woman and a 10-year-old boy, but that another rebel soldier had given her the only food she had in two days - a bar of chocolate.
The Dutch U.N. troops charged with protecting the civilians could do little to help them. A Serb tank stood at the gate to the Potocari camp, and mortars and rocket launchers were aimed at the refugees, who waited in the 88-degree heat.