Serbs Sneak and Terrorize Bosniak Civilians in Srebrenica
By Srecko Latal
The Daily Gazette
25 June 1995.
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Rebel Serbs sneaked through government lines and opened fire on an eastern city, inflicting numerous civilian casualties, state radio said Saturday.
In the capital of Sarajevo, fighting ebbed to its lowest level since the government launched an offensive June 15, but fierce fighting was reported in northeastern Bosnia.
Government radio said a Serb sabotage unit slipped into the government-held city of Srebrenica early Saturday and committed “a massacre against the civilian population. There are many dead and wounded.”
U.N. officials confirmed at least three civilians were killed in “very unusual circumstances,” and said peacekeepers were investigating reports of a massacre. They released no further details.
More than 150 explosions rocked Srebrenica before dawn Saturday, the highest count for a single day this year. Bosnian Serb army headquarters said fighting in the area was between feuding Muslims.
U.N. spokesman Jim Landale said a group of Serb soldiers emerged in the northern Srebrenica suburb of Vitlovac after sneaking through an unused 2mile-long mining tunnel that runs under the front lines.
From the tunnel’s mouth, the Serbs apparently opened fire on the town with shoulder-launched rockets, Landale said.
Dutch peacekeepers found a dead woman whose body was surrounded by empty shell casings, indicating the infiltrators may have shot her when she surprised them, said Landale. A man was found shot to death and another killed by shrapnel.
Government troops, meanwhile, captured the strategic peak on Mount Vis, used by the Serbs to launch artillery attacks on the northeastern town of Tuzla, said U.N. spokesman Lt. Col. Gary Coward.
Also in the northeast, some 1,200 explosions were recorded Friday during intense artillery exchanges between government and Bosnian Serb forces between the Serb-held towns of Gradacac and Brcko, Coward said. [note: small error in reporting — Gradacac was held by Bosniaks, while Brcko was held by Serbs].
The Red Cross reported 3,000 civilians fled fighting near the town of Vrnograc in the northwestern tip of Bosnia.
Sarajevo was relatively quiet Saturday morning, b ut there was sporadic shelling downtown in the late afternoon. At least one person was wounded by shrapnel.
Fighting also continued in western and southwestern suburbs and in the Serb-held town of Hadzici, five miles southwest of Sarajevo, said U.N. spokeswoman Maj. Myriam Sochacki.
Government troops went on the offensive June 15 north and south of Sarajevo, trying to break the Serb stranglehold that has choked off supplies of food and fuel to the capital. Fighting continues in at least six places near the city, but reporters and U.N. officials have been blocked from reaching the areas.
In Visoko, north of Sarajevo, Canadian peacekeepers confined to their barracks by the government army were allowed Saturday to move in and out of their base under army guard, Sochacki said.
The 5,000-member peacekeeping mission in Sarajevo, shut off from supplies by the Serbs, have only enough food, fuel and other reserves to last them one week, said Coward. Trying to keep their mission afloat — and feed the city’s residents — the peacekeepers have been testing a treacherous land route over the hills south of Sarajevo.
Coward said Bosnian Serbs fired 30-mm and 40-mm anti-aircraft cannon at least three times Friday at U.N. vehicles using the Mount Igman road, a dirt-track route that links the capital to government-held territory in central Bosnia.
On Friday, a Red Cross medical convoy, the first to reach Sarajevo since February, was hit by sniper fire as it approached the city, said Red Cross spokesman Pierre Gauther. There were no casualties. It wasn’t known who fired the shots.