Violence raged near the heart of the capital Sunday when a wave of arson and looting swept through Grbavica - a vicious front line during the war that in just two days will be the last Serb district turned over to the Muslim-Croat federation.
The violence, just a few hundred yards across the river from downtown Sarajevo, was some of the worst since the Dayton peace accords went into effect late last year.
Anarchy reigned in the streets as Bosnian Serb police abandoned Grbavica and firemen from Sarajevo, frightened by a grenade attack on firetrucks Friday, refused to enter to douse the flames.
Scenes of chaos and desperation were occurring everywhere.
An elderly woman swung a plastic basin of water, futilely trying to splash the flames twisting toward her balcony.
A young mother ran from her burning building with her baby. After learning that the fire brigade would not come, she left the infant in a nearby building and ran back inside for a few belongings, covering her face with her hands.
At the edge of a burning market, 20-year-old Goca Lale still was hoping to find customers for her cigarettes and slivovitz, the local plum brandy.
“Serbs lost everything, and the worst thing is that we have lost it not in a battle but here in peace,” she said. “This is my last day in Sarajevo. Tomorrow, everything will be burning.”
The arson and looting follow unrest that swept four other Serb districts before they were handed over to the Muslim-Croat federation as mandated by terms of the peace accords.
Those districts were suburbs, however, and the violence in Grbavica - the city’s center - is more visible.