Fighting ebbed Sunday in northwestern Bosnia, where up to 50,000 exhausted Serbs were struggling to survive after fleeing advances by government and Croat forces.
In a bitter twist in the 3-1/2-year-long war, many of the refugees are now at Omarska, site of one of the most notorious prison camps set up when Serb rebels overran much of Bosnia in 1992.
A field hospital has been treating both civilians and soldiers wounded in the latest fighting. Aid workers say some older refugees are dying, apparently exhausted after being uprooted by rapid shifts in front lines in northern Bosnia in the past six weeks.
The U.S.-brokered truce that began Thursday was largely being observed throughout the country, U.N. officials said Sunday. The Muslim-led Bosnian government claimed Saturday that it was halting its offensive amid reports Serbia had to threaten to send in the Yugoslav army.
A mechanized Croatian army unit, including 22 tanks, was crossing from Bosnia back into Croatia on Sunday, U.N. spokeswoman Leah Melnick said in Zagreb. In addition, more than 2,500 crack Croatian troops moved away from positions along Bosnia’s northern border with Croatia on Saturday, he said.
Government army commanders met for five hours in the Bosnian capital late Saturday and dispatched a senior officer to the bitterly contested northwest, apparently to ensure that government troops there observe the truce, army sources said.
However, Bosnian Serb military sources cited by the Belgrade news agency Tanjug claimed fierce fighting continued in the northwest Sunday, including government shelling of Serb-held Prijedor. There was no independent confirmation of the claims.
Muslims and Croats in the northwest have a powerful motive to keep fighting: revenge for reported Serb atrocities during the Serb takeover of the region in the spring and summer of 1992.
John Sparrow of the International Red Cross said Saturday that some of the Serb refugees are living in a mine that served as a Serb detention center in 1992, but most are out in the open.