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Serbs’ Willingness To Kill Gives Them Edge Over Peacekeepers 21 French Soldiers Among Troops Captured Friday

Sat., May 27, 1995

A French unit’s commander waved a small white flag of surrender.

A Ghanaian asked the world to stop shooting. He was chained to a bridge.

Other peacekeepers were mute, but equally helpless, chained to steel stanchions and doors. Canadians, Czechs, Russians, Poles - a host of nations taken hostage in the latest clash between Bosnia’s rebel Serbs and the world.

The captives included 21 French soldiers who surrendered Friday at this barracks in a Sarajevo suburb after an intimidating show of force by Serbs.

A Serb officer, Lt. Col. Milenko Indjic, had first tried to coax the French into surrender. He entered the U.N. quarters, unarmed, to negotiate.

The French commander said he had orders not to surrender.

Indjic then ordered military police to take positions and prepare to fire. For three minutes, automatic rifle fire targeted the building where the 21 Frenchmen were.

“Hold fire and watch for a white flag,” ordered Vuko Cvoro, the commanding Serb officer.

No flag appeared. Two rocket-propelled grenades hit a truck and an APC. Minutes later, the French surrendered without firing a shot.

“Your politicians put you in this situation,” Indjic told the French. “This situation has been forced upon both you and us and we have to do this to try to protect the Serb people from your bombs.”

The Serbs seemed to be at pains to demonstrate to this reporter and Associated Press Television - the only foreign media present - that they were treating the peacekeepers correctly, even as they took them hostage.

“You are now POWs and you will be treated according to all Geneva conventions,” Lt. Col. Milenko Indjic of the Bosnian Serb army told them.

Then, the Frenchmen were herded into one room, and their communications equipment and weapons - M-16 automatic rifles and grenade launchers - were confiscated.

Some U.N. peacekeepers were shackled to potential targets and filmed by Bosnian Serb television.

This reporter saw two peacekeepers chained to a strategic bridge on the outskirts of Pale. One, a Ghanaian, pleaded for NATO to stop its attacks, calling them “a crime against humanity.”

But Serb officials barred AP interviews with them, and with the French. “They are POWs and interviews are not allowed,” muttered one.

Bosnian Serb TV was allowed to film the peacekeepers making their plea to hammer home the Serb message to the United Nations: Stop hitting us, or we’ll hit you, because you are now our enemy.

No one could say what would happen to the peacekeepers if NATO strikes again. But a Serb soldier passing by reporters had no doubt what would have happened if the French at the barracks had resisted.

“Had they fired a single bullet back,” he said, “they would’ve been dead by now.”


Tags: war

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