250 Muslims Killed in the Cerska Massacre (1993) near Srebrenica
U.N. Commander Treks to Ravaged Bosnian Enclave
6 March 1993.
By George Jahn
TUZLA, Bosnia-Herzegovina — The commander of U.N. troops in Bosnia boldly headed for a besieged government enclave on Friday, hopping to evacuate thousands of desperate Muslim [Bosniak] refugees driven from their homes.
Gen. Philippe Morillon’s trek into the heart of the worst fighting in eastern Bosnia signaled growing international concern over the failure of peace talks and U.S. airdrops to halt the carnage.
President Clinton, referring to the practice of “ethnic cleansing,” said the latest Serb offensive showed that they were succeeding in their campaign to drive Bosnian Muslims from the region. He pledged to tighten sanctions against the Serbs with a further crackdown that a spokesman said would “inflict real pain” on the aggressors.
Despite Serbian denials a day earlier of allegations of slaughter and rape, new reports of savagery continued to surface on the fifth day of the Serb offensive.
Peace talks continued at the United Nations in New York, but no progress was reported. Negotiators for the warring parties agreed to stay in New York and resume the talks today.
Late Friday, Morillon was reportedly negotiating evacuation plans with Serb commanders near Cerska, a region in eastern Bosnia hard hit by the war. But no agreement was reported and the French general apparently intended to spend the night in the area.
Ham radio operators in Cerska reported intense Serb artillery attacks. They said one village in the region was surrounded and that 28 had been set ablaze.
Radio operators have cited hundreds dead and thousands wounded in this week’s assault, but the reports are impossible to confirm.
Morillon ventured into the region partly to assess the accuracy of these reports but largely to obtain a safe path out for the refugees.
“I hope tomorrow we can open a corridor to evacuate the wounded. That is my mission,” Morillon said earlier Friday upon arriving in Tuzla by helicopter from Sarajevo. He and a team of experts approached Cerska, 30 miles away, by land although Serbs turned back five of the seven armored U.N. vehicles escorting him.
Tony Land, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees representative in Sarajevo, said the United Nations did not want to become an accomplice to ethnic cleansing.
Morillon’s trip to the bloody region appeared aimed at countering the impression of U.N. impotence in ending the warfare and suffering in Bosnia.
Capt. David Bennett of the British battalion in Tuzla said Morillon’s mission was to “go for as much as he can get there. If that encompasses the evacuation of all refugees, so be it.”
A ham radio operator in the Cerska region reported that Konjevic Polje – where up to 10,000 refugees are reportedly cowering in the open – was under fierce artillery attack.
Senahid Babic, interviewed from Zagreb, Croatia, reported a massacre of 250 refugees trying to flee the area.
Radio operators also carried a detailed account from a man identified as Besim Topalovic who claimed he was one of three survivors when hundreds of Cerska refugees were machine-gunned.