More fearful Serbs fled lawless Sarajevo suburbs on Sunday, and a U.N. aid official accused the NATO-led peace force of not offering enough protection.
Two days before Ilidza was to be handed over to Bosnia’s Muslim-Croat federation, fires burned in a music school, two factories, a pharmacy, a church and several apartment buildings in the largely deserted Serb suburb. Dozens of people waited at a wrecked streetcar terminal for rides to Serb-held areas.
A mother and her two children stood weeping outside one burning building. French NATO troops first stood and watched, then tried to put out the blaze after more troops arrived and orders were apparently changed.
Later, NATO troops escorted a fire truck from a nearby government-held suburb to help extinguish an apartment fire that threatened to engulf the entire building.
Serb gangs intent on proving that Bosnians cannot live together have been blamed for intimidation, arson and a reported murder designed to drive Serbs out of the two remaining Sarajevo suburbs not yet under federation control.
Local sources have told international police monitors that more than 200 buildings and houses would be burned down in the areas in the next 48 hours, spokesman Alexander Ivanko said Sunday.
U.N. and NATO officials say Serb gangs apparently are being directed by the hard-line leadership in the Bosnian Serb stronghold of Pale.
The Serb mayor of Ilidza, Nedjeljko Prstojevic, appealed to truck owners to assemble in the suburb today to help evacuate remaining civilians, the Bosnian Serb news agency SRNA reported.
Under the Bosnian peace agreement, the whole Sarajevo region is to be reunified by March 19 under the control of the Muslim-Croat federation that is to govern half of Bosnia. Most Serbs have deserted the city’s five Serb-held districts, fearing reprisals when their wartime enemies take over.
International civilian officials said NATO should do more to respond to the security vacuum as Serb police withdraw or stand by and federation police are not yet in place.
The 60,000-member NATO-led force has refused to carry out police duties for fear of getting drawn into conflict between the warring factions.