Croats, Muslims Advance; Thousands More Refugees On The Move
Government and Croat soldiers captured two important towns from the Bosnian Serbs on Wednesday, advancing rapidly in central and western Bosnia as the rebels retreated. The advances sent up to 40,000 Serb civilians fleeing.
Gen. Mehmed Alagic, commander of the Bosnian army’s 7th Corps, told Bosnian government television that the town of Donji Vakuf, about 55 miles northwest of Sarajevo, had fallen to government forces.
“Units of the 7th Corps are right now entering Donji Vakuf,” he told the television announcer. “Donji Vakuf is ours.”
More importantly, Croatian television in Zagreb reported that the strategic town of Jajce, another 15 miles to the north, had fallen.
It carried footage showing a Croatian flag flying from the fortress of Jajce, with Croat militia around and the town in the background. Television also showed Croat tanks moving on the road below the town of Jajce.
Wednesday’s advances meant four Serb-held towns have fallen to combined Bosnian army-Croat forces over the last two days: Sipovo, Drvar, Jajce and Donji Vakuf. A fifth, Bosanski Petrovac, is endangered, with the Bosnian Army’s 5th Corps perched on its northwestern outskirts and the Croats moving up from the south.
If the Croats and the Bosnian government forces meet up, they would establish a long cordon of territory along Bosnia’s border with Croatia and ease transportation between Bihac and Sarajevo.
Croat forces had been pressing toward Jajce from the west, and the capture of Donji Vakuf set up a pincer movement on Jajce. The Croatian news agency HINA reported earlier that Jajce had been captured.
Jajce holds economic, strategic and psychological importance. Its capture would put the allied forces in position to harass the Bosnian Serb stronghold of Banja Luka, farther north.
It also is the site of important hydroelectric plants.
Psychologically, the capture of Jajce is most important for the Bosnian government. Thousands of refugees fled the area when Bosnian forces lost it in an October 1992 battle. Jajce also is the site of the declaration of a new Yugoslavia by Communist partisans in 1943.
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