Tuzla massacre, Serbs slaughter at least 70 Bosniak civilians
TUZLA, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Bosnian Serbs answered a NATO airstrike Thursday with a defiant barrage of shells aimed at government-held cities, including a carnage that killed at least 70 people in this norther city.
Two shells landed in front of a cafe in Tuzla, the largest government-held city other than Sarajevo, hours after NATO warplanes struck near the Bosnian Serb headquarters in Pale.
Bodies and body parts lay in the bloody street outside the cafe, while horror-stricken residents helped ambulance crews bring victims to the hospital.
Estimates of the death toll steadily rose through the evening. Doctors initially said they thought 20 to 30 people died, but Bosnian presidency member Ejup Ganic later put the toll at 50.
Dr. Teufik Tulumovic, who was treating victims, estimated that at least 70 people were killed and another 150 were wounded.
Tuzla, like the capital Sarajevo, is a U.N.-declared “safe area” in which civilians are supposed to be spared attack.
Bosnian Serbs launched mortar attacks on Sarajevo on Thursday, but no casualties were reported. They also reportedly shelled three other safe areas — Gorazde, Bihac and Srebrenica.
The dramatic escalation in violence made more NATO airstrikes seem nearly inevitable, pushing the isolated Bosnian Serb leadership toward a showdown with the rest of the world.
“This is a slap in the face of the United Nations and the international community, and the Serbs will have to suffer the consequences,” U.N. spokesman Alexander Ivanko in Sarajevo said of the Tuzla shelling. “There is only one option available … and that is to use air power.”
NATO launched the air strike on Pale after Bosnian Serbs ignored a deadline to return four heavy weapons to the depots. Under a NATO ultimatum issued last year, all heavy weapons are to be excluded from a 12.5 mile radius around Sarajevo.
The Serbs had been given until noon Thursday to return four heavy weapons taken from the depots to U.N. control or face reprisal. Four hours after the deadline expired and the weaponry had not been returned, NATO warplanes struck at Serb headquarters in Pale.