United States Air Force to Help Bosnian Muslims
5,000 Bosnian Muslims, including 2,000 children, died of starvation in six besieged enclaves, including Srebrenica and Zepa.
US PREPARATIONS FOR BOSNIA AIRDROP GAINING INTENSITY
Kentucky New Era, p.5A
25 February 1993.
By Laurinda Keys
Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — First, 600,000 leaflets will flutter down on eastern Bosnia, telling residents about a coming American airdrop. Then, tons of food and medicine will fall from the sky.
Our hope is to watch for presents from heaven,” said Fadil Heljic, a ham radio operator in the besieged town of Zepa.
The Defense Department is not disclosing a starting date for its airdrop into eastern Bosnia, but it was expected to start this weekend. It is intended to help about 300,000 cold, hungry Muslims [Bosniaks] in six enclaves besieged by Serb fighters.
About 5,000 people in those areas, including 2,000 children, have died of hunger and cold this winter, according to unconfirmed reports by the Bosnian government.
Some people have been living in caves, and the few truck convoys that have managed to get through have been swamped by emaciated residents.
The populations of these areas, held by Bosnian forces, have been swelled by tens of thousands of refugees who have fled fighting and Serb “ethnic cleansing” campaigns along the Drina River, which separates Serbia and Bosnia.
On Friday, about 1,500 Muslim refugees were sent on buses by Serbs from the town of Sipovo in central Bosnia south toward Travnik, possibly as part of a campaign of ethnic cleansing, said Canadian Cmdr. Barry Frewer, a spokesman for the U.N. peacekeepers in Bosnia.
Aid workers have not reached some areas in months because of fighting, Serb roadblocks, winter weather and shell-damaged roads.
“Conditions there are very difficult, the populations are thin and malnourished,” said Lyndall Sachs, a spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. There has been no electricity for weeks, and people are reduced to melting snow for water.”
Medical conditions are medieval. No drugs or anesthetics are available, according to a report by the U.N. agency.
The situation does not appear to be quite so desperate in at least one town, Gorazde, a target of the air-drop. U.N. refugee official Larry Hollingworth, who led a convoy into the town on Thursday, said people there appeared to have some access to food, plenty of wood for heat and “looked healthier than the population of Sarajevo.”
On Friday, U.S. troops in Germany packed food and medical supplies for the airdrop.
Up to 80 tons of food and medical supplies will be in the opening flight by C-130 Hercules cargo planes, U.S. Defense Department officials say. There has been no word yet on how much aid will be dropped before the mission is completed.
The American plan has drawn praise from allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization [NATO], but few concrete offers of help from allied powers. They view it as risky, and as a complement to relief and peacekeeping missions they already have on the ground in Bosnia.
U.S. planes have flown tons of food and medical supplies to Sarajevo and other parts of former Yugoslavia, but the airdrops are new.
More than 100,000 people have been killed or are missing since Bosnia’s Bosniaks and Croats voted last February to leave Yugoslavia last year. Bosnia’s ethnic Serbs, backed by Serb-dominated Yugoslavia, revolted and have overrun about 70 percent of Bosnian territory.
Bosnian officials hope greater U.S. involvement will force the warring factions to make peace. More peace talks are to be held in New York next week.
Of the areas targeted for the air mission, only the estimated 110,000 people in Tuzla, a northeastern city about 30 miles west of Bosnia’s border with Serbia, have been receiving regular weekly deliveries of aid.
Most worrisome to aid officials is Cerska, whose 10,000 people have received no aid at all since war erupted last spring. The U.N. refugee agency plans to make another attempt to reach it Sunday.
Four other pockets — at Zepa, Gorazde, Srebrenica and Gradacac — harbor up to 200,000 people.
Crying women, children and old people lined the road for up to nine miles when a Swedish convoy reached the estimated 60,000 residents of Gorazde on Thursday, Bosnian radio said.
The American planes will probably have little difficulty parachuting supplies to Gorazde and Srebrenica, which cover relatively large areas of land.
Airdrops to Zepa and Cerska will be more problematic because of their small size and the proximity of the Serbian lines. Pallets could easily be blown of course.
Elsewhere in Bosnia, fighting resumed in Sarajevo on Friday, ending four days of relative calm. Serb artillery pounded the strategic western suburb of Stup, and an Egyptian U.N. peacekeeper was reported killed Thursday by a sniper.
His death brought to 30 the number of peacekeepers killed in Bosnia and neighboring Croatia.
Elsewhere, Serb forces shelled Potocari in eastern Bosnia and the eastern town of Srebrenica Friday, Sarajevo radio reported. It said two people were killed in Potocari and four wounded in Srebrenica.
In Brussels, Secretary of State Warren M. Christopher briefed American’s NATO allies on the air-drop, intended primarily for isolated Bosniak enclaves besieged by Serbs. The plan drew praise, but few concrete offers of assistance.