The Daily Gazette
30 November 1994.
By Samir Krilic
ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — The Bosnian Serbs have taken 400 U.N. peacekeepers hostage, jeopardizing the entire U.N. mission in the war-torn country.
The Serbs began detaining some of the 24,000 peacekeepers last week as insurance against a repeat of three NATO air strikes that failed to deter their advance on the key northwest Bosnian town of Bihac.
When a senior U.N. commander called the Bosnian Serb army chief, Gen. Ratko Mladic, to ask when detained peacekeepers and convoys would be freed, Mladic replied, “When you give me the timetable for NATO jets,” and hung up, a U.N. source in Sarajevo said Tuesday.
U.N. sources in Zagreb and Sarajevo said the U.N. force has requested NATO not even to fly over Bosnia enforcing the no-fly zone until Thursday because the flights create tension.
The Serbs have stationed a SAM-6 ground-to-air missile within range of Sarajevo airport, which is closed to humanitarian aid flights that keep the city alive, U.N. sources said Tuesday.
In a chilling incident last Wednesday, three U.N. military observers were brought out onto a runway at the Serb stronghold of Banja Luka and forced to remain there eight hours, said U.N. spokesman Michael Williams in Zagreb.
That was also the day the Serbs began detaining at least 125 French U.N. peacekeepers and dozens of Russians and Ukrainians guarding weapons collection sites around Sarajevo.
And 55 Canadians around Visoko in central Bosnia also were taken hostage.
On Sunday, the United Nations acknowledged that four convoys with a total of 164 British and Dutch soldiers aboard had disappeared in Serb-held eastern Bosnia, and close to Sarajevo.
In neighboring Croatia, 45 Ukrainian peacekeepers were detained in Serb-held areas close to the adjacent pocket of Bihac, U.N. sources said.
Peacekeepers in Bosnia and Croatia have long lived with virtually daily firing incidents, other harassment and restriction on their movements with relief convoys and supplies for peacekeepers.
U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali is traveling to Sarajevo today to try to negotiate a Bosnia-wide cease-fire, end fighting around Bihac and stop Serb harassment of the peacekeeprs, Williams said.