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MUSLIMS 'SLAUGHTER THEIR OWN PEOPLE'
Leonard Doyle in New York
The Independent, August, 22, 1992.
* Bosnia bread queue massacre was propaganda ploy, UN told *
United Nations officials and senior Western military officers believe some
of the worst recent killings in Sarajevo, including the massacre of at least
16 people in a bread queue, were carried out by the city's mainly Muslim
defenders - not Serb besiegers - as a propaganda ploy to win world sympathy
and military intervention.
The view has been expressed in confidential reports circulating at UN
headquarters in New York, and in classified briefings to US policymakers in
Washington. All suggest that Sarajevo's defenders, mainly Muslims but
including Croats and a number of Serb residents, staged several attacks on
their own people in the hope of dramatizing the city's plight in the face of
insuperable Serbian odds.
They emphasize, however, that these attacks, though bloody, were a tiny
minority among regular city bombardments by Serbian forces.
The reports recite a litany of gruesome events, from the bombing of the
bread queue on 27 May to the 4 August explosion at a cemetery while two
orphans were being buried, and a "choreographed" mortar salvo 30 seconds
after Douglas Hurd entered a building for a meeting with the Bosnian
President Alija Izetbegovic, on 17 July. The mortar attack, which the
Foreign Secretary played down by saying "it wasn't as bad as the No 10
bang," killed or wounded 10 bystanders. A Bosnian guard of honor for Mr
Hurd's security had, however, already taken cover.
Speaking about the attack on the cemetery, a UN official said: "The smoke
upon impact was...only about five or six feet [two meters] from her [one of
the injured] and if it had been a mortar round as reported she would have
been cut in about 20 pieces."
UN officials also believe the bullet which killed the American television
producer David Kaplan near Sarajevo airport on 13 August was probably not
fired by a sniper from distant Serbian positions. "That would have been
impossible," one UN military officer said. "That shot came in horizontal to
the ground. Somebody was down at ground level."
UN officials also say a Ukrainian soldier shot in the head and heart at
Sarajevo's Marshall Tito barracks on Thursday was killed by "small arms
fire" - by implication the Bosnians. The officials were anxious to point out
that they were not trying to exonerate the Serbs, who have been besieging
Sarajevo for months, killing unknown numbers of townspeople, as well as
carrying out "ethnic cleansing" around the city and elsewhere in Bosnia.
But they expressed fears that the "self-inflicted" attacks may not augur
well for existing UN forces or for additional Western troops, including
Britons, who have to serve there.
In a New York meeting on Thursday attended by Sir Peter Inge, the Chief of
the General Staff, it was agreed that the 1,800 British and 1,000 French
soldiers being sent in would use their weapons strictly in self-defence and
would not intervene to separate Serbs from Muslims.
The televised scenes of civilians cut to pieces by an explosion as they
queued for bread on one of Sarajevo's main shopping thoroughfares, Vase
Miskina, horrified international public opinion and added to growing
pressure for military intervention against the Serbian side in the war.
Vivid footage showed dead bodies littering the street and people with
severed limbs sitting on the pavement in pools of blood. The attack came
shortly before a meeting of European Community ambassadors to consider
imposing sanctions on Serbia. The world's press concluded that the atrocity
was caused by mortar bombs fired from a Serbian-held positions and attack
was widely interpreted as a cynical display of defiance by the Serbs.
UN officials said then that they were suspicious about the circumstances but
could not go public without jeopardizing the UN mission and possibly
endangering UN peacekeepers' lives.
Classified reports to the UN force commander, General Satish Nambiar,
concluded, however, that the Bosnian forces loyal to President Alija
Izetbegovic may have detonated a bomb.
"We believe it was a command-detonated explosion, probably in a can," a UN
official said then. "The impact which is there now is not necessarily
similar or anywhere near as large as we came to expect with a mortar round
landing on a paved surface."
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