SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — With a new escalation of fighting in northwest Bosnia, a U.N.-brokered truce seemed dangerously close to collapse yesterday without clearing the first of many hurdles.
Bosnian Serbs, clearly defying the terms of the accord, halted the movement of U.N. military convoys through much of their territory, while refusing to open a road out of Sarajevo.
A shell that may have been fired from Serbs in neighboring Croatia [Krajina Serbs] killed a 19-year-old woman yesterday morning at a school in Bihac, in the northwest. Another shell killed a 15-year-old girl and wounded her mother. Government radio said a total of 11 people were wounded when dozens of shell hit.
The shelling, plus a mortar attack on a bridge in downtown Bihac that killed five people Saturday, may have been a response to an attempt by government troops to push out of the encircled town, said Col. Gary Coward, a U.N. military spokesman in Sarajevo.
Bosnian government troops on Saturday seized Klokot, a village two miles northwest of Bihac and about a mile east of the Croatian border, and continued their offensive yesterday, advancing almost four miles to the west of Bihac, Colonel Coward said. They now control a vital water treatment plant.
The bloodshed in Bihac put new strains on a Bosnia-wide cease-fire that started on Dec. 24 and on the overall four-month cessation of hostilities agreement signed Dec. 31 by Bosnian Serbs, the Bosniak-led government and Bosnian Croats. Serbs in neighboring Croatia and rebel Bosniaks [led by war criminal Fikret Abdic] aligned with the Serbs did not sign.
The agreement was aimed at giving negotiators time to bring the warring parties back to the bargaining table. More than 200,000 people have died or disappeared since the war began in April, 1992, when Serb nationalists rebelled against a decision by the government to secede from Yugoslavia.
The capital and most other fronts have been quiet for three weeks. But many U.N. officials believe this is only a pause in a war that neither side is ready to end.