SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Mortars rained down Monday on battered Sarajevo, killing at least 21 people, wounding at least 135 others and shattering U.N. efforts to open the airport to relief supplies.
One of the shells landed among a group attending the opening of a local cartoonist’s exhibit. One hit outside the national bank. Another exploded by a tank truck where people stood in line for scarce drinking water.
Television footage showed victims writhing in pain. One man left a trail of blood as he was dragged from Marshal Tito Street.
“Disaster is going on all over town,” said Gordana Knezevic, a journalist.
In open spaces, people ran for cover, many trying desperately to flag down passing cars that screeched around corners to avoid being hit.
The shelling appeared to come from Serb positions in the hills in response fire by Bosnia’s Bosniak-led defense.
The casualty toll was one of the highest in the Bosnian capital since the fighting broke out in April. Ethnic Serbs, backed by the Yugoslav army, have been trying to crush the Bosniaks and Croats, who voted for independence from Yugoslavia on Feb. 29.
There is little to eat in the besieged city. Bread production has been cut b more than half, an dsome people have resorted to eating boiled nettles and weeds.
In Belgrade, the Serbian and Yugoslav capital, Yugoslav President Dobrica Cosic mulled his choice for premier. Press reports said a leading candidate was Milan Panic, a Yugoslav who holds U.S. citizenship and runs a pharmaceuticals company in California.
The Belgrade daily Borba, citing sources in Washington, reported that Cosic had asked President Bush not to revoke Milan Panic’s citizenship if he accepts the post. Borba said Panic has refused to take the job unless Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic resigns.
Kosta Cavoski, a member of the Democratic Movement of Serbia opposition group, said Cosic pledged to call new elections.
Milosevic is widely blamed for the fratricidal wars that have killed thousands of people and created more than a million refugees over the past year in the former Yugoslavia. Calls for his resignation have mounted since the United Nations clamped an economic embargo on Yugoslavia last month.
Government officials in Bosnia said Sunday that 40,000 have been killed in fighting there alone.
The death count was impossible to confirm independently and was almost six times higher than a figure of about 7,000 dead made public only days ago.
Sarajevo TV journalist Rasim Borcak said two planes, apparently belonging to the Yugoslav national army, attacked and destroyed Sarajevo radio’s AM transmitter, leaving the official Bosnian station with only short-wave transmission capability.
Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Lewis Mackenzie, the U.N. commander in Sarajevo, held talks with Bosnian officials about a cease-fire.
On Saturday, Mackenzie said he was abandoning efforts to reopen the airport until fighting halted at least 48 hours. He said he would renew the countdown each time fighting resumed.
“The adjustment ring from my watch is getting worn out,” Mackenzie said Monday.
The chief of Bosnia’s defense forces has taken steps to bring Bosnian defenders under centralized control. The commander, Sefer Halilovic, ordered all soldiers with heavy weapons were to report to the army to be drafted or turn over their guns, the Belgrade-based Tanjug news agency reported.