By Stephen Kinzer
8 May 1993.
New York Times
In an assault that seemed a calculated gesture of defiance, Bosnian Serbs blew up two historic mosques in the northern Bosnian town of Banja Luka today.
The ornately decorated Ferhad-Pasha Mosque, one of those blown up, dated from 1583 and was considered one of the most beautiful in the Balkans. Also destroyed was the town’s other principal mosque, Arnaudija, which was built in 1587.
In Belgrade, the Yugoslav President, Dobrica Cosic, issued a statement denouncing the bombings. It was thought to be the first time he has condemned an act attributed to Serbian fighters in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
‘The Final Warning’
Mr. Cosic called the bombings an “act of barbarity,” and said they constituted “the final warning to all reasonable and responsible people on all warring sides to act resolutely, immediately and with all means at their disposal to stop the war and destruction.”
By contrast, neither Mr. Cosic nor any other official in Belgrade offered any comment when five mosques were blown up in a single night last month in the town of Bijeljina.
Details from Banja Luka, which is controlled by Bosnian Serbs, were scarce today, although the tactic of destroying mosques has been used often in the war to try to demoralize Bosniaks.
A spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Ron Redmond, told Reuters in Geneva, “This, to the UNHCR, just underscores the ethnic hatred in Banja Luka, and the extreme elements who are working there are still trying to frighten the population.” Political leaders in Belgrade broke publicly with the Bosnian Serb leadership on Thursday after the self-appointed Bosnian Serb parliament voted to reject a peace plan that had been strongly endorsed by both Mr. Cosic and the Serbian President, Slobodan Milosevic. The Yugoslav and Serbian Governments announced that they were cutting off military and logistical support for their allies in Bosnia.
Officials in foreign capitals who are preparing possible military intervention against the Bosnian Serbs have suggested that they might aim some of their attacks at targets in Serbia. Mr. Cosic and Mr. Milosevic hope they can avoid such attacks by showing that they no longer support the fighters whom they armed and organized last year.
Bosnian Serb leaders expressed no signs of regret today. Their political chief, Radovan Karadzic, asserted in a television interview that Bosnian Serb voters would “absolutely not” approve the peace plan in a referendum scheduled for May 15-16. Anti-Serb Campaign Seen
Gen. Ratko Mladic, the senior Bosnian Serb commander, said that even if the peace plan had been accepted, Western powers would not have abandoned what he described as their campaign to wipe out Serbia and its allies.
“On the basis of my experience so far, I believe that nothing would have changed,” General Mladic told a Belgrade newspaper. “What is at stake is an attempt to divide the Orthodox world, even to the point of complete annihilation. Regardless of what we decide, the world will continue to carry out its infernal plan.”
Officials in nearby countries fear that if a bombing campaign against Bosnian Serbs begins, General Mladic could retaliate by firing missiles at foreign targets. The Yugoslav Army is equipped with missiles that could reach neighboring capitals, and some analysts believe army commanders may have sent some of them to their Bosnian compatriots.
In eastern Bosnia today, Serbian fighters reportedly staged new assaults on the eastern town of Zepa, one of the area’s last remaining Bosniak strongholds. A ham radio operator in Zepa reported that the town was being pounded by tank and artillery bombardment. He said that more than 200 civilians had been killed since the current round of attacks began on Tuesday. U.N. Names ‘Safe Havens’
The report could not be confirmed because Serbian fighters have prevented United Nations observers from reaching Zepa. It is one of five Bosnian towns designated as demilitarized “safe havens” by the United Nations Security Council on Thursday.
[ Lieut. Gen. Philippe Morillon said on Saturday that the commander of the Bosnian Serb army had signed an accord for the deployment of United Nations military observers and troops to the besieged enclaves of Zepa and Gorazde, Reuters reported. General Morillon, the commander of United Nations forces in Sarajevo, said Gen. Ratko Mladic had signed the agreement allowing deployments to Zepa on Saturday and Gorazde on Sunday. ]
Under the Security Council resolution, provision was made for the deployment of 50 observers in each of the fivetowns. Cedric Thornberry, deputy director of the United Nations Protection Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina, said today that the job would not be easy to accomplish with such “extremely limited resources.”
Mr. Thornberry also reiterated his opposition to the use of foreign military force against Bosnian Serbs. Such a policy, he said, would further harden the position of Bosnian Serb leaders, who voted on Thursday to reject the peace plan devised by a United Nations-European Community mediation team led by Cyrus R. Vance and Lord Owen.
“After hearing the news that the Pale assembly had voted against the Vance-Owen plan with just two dissenting votes,” Mr. Thornberry said, “I asked myself what would have happened if the question before them was, ‘Do you want to fight the entire international community?’ My conviction is if that had been the question, everyone would have voted yes. There would not have been two dissenting votes.”
“To me it is an inherent contradiction that you can impose by force a long-term and durable solution to deep-seated intercommunal problems,” he added.
In London, Lord Owen urged foreign powers to wait to see the effect of Belgrade’s announced aid cutoff before conducting military attacks. BALKAN UPDATE
President Clinton met with European allies yesterday in WASHINGTON and plans further discussions over the weekend in search of a common policy on how to approach the war in BOSNIA. Mr. Clinton remains optimistic that an allied compromise plan can be struck to end the fighting in Bosnia.
Bosnian Serbs leveled two historic mosques in the northern Bosnian town of BANJA LUKA, an action that brought strong criticism from BELGRADE. The President of YUGOSLAVIA denounced the bombing, and he and the President of SERBIA both say they are distancing themselves from the Bosnian Serbs whose campaign they have supported.
In SARAJEVO, a leader of the Bosnian Serbs promised that his forces would respect the six “safe areas” created by the United Nations. At the same time, Serbian forces continued to hammer ZEPA, one of the Security Council’s designated areas, where more than 500 people reportedly were killed or wounded in just four days.