Serbs Accuse U.N. Troops of Shelling Hospital


The possibility that its crack combat troops accidentally killed Bosnian Serb civilians at a Sarajevo-area hospital alarmed the United Nations on Saturday and threatened to undermine plans to expand NATO’s bombing campaign against rebel targets.

Bosnian Serb officials charged that members of the U.N. rapid-reaction force shelled a hospital in the Serb-held Sarajevo suburb of Ilidza on Friday, killing 10 people and wounding 22.

The United Nations confirmed that its troops unleashed an artillery barrage against what it said was an antiaircraft position near the hospital. But U.N. officials said they would have to investigate before accepting any blame. Thus far, the Bosnian Serbs have refused to grant U.N. investigators access to the hospital.


“I would stress that everyone in the U.N. forces is very upset at the turn of events, there being no intention to cause civilian casualties,” Brig. Gen. Jean-Rene Bachelet, the commander of U.N. forces in Sarajevo, said at a news conference here in the capital.

But, he added, “at present we have not been able to confirm the allegations that a hospital was hit by artillery fire.”

Reporters who were escorted to the Ilidza site by Bosnian Serb officials said they saw shattered windows and pools of blood in the gravel in front of the hospital.

The Reuters news agency quoted a doctor as saying that shrapnel hit a crowd of people waiting for a bus, and Bosnian Serb officials told reporters that three rounds fell in the area, one landing 15 yards from the front of the hospital.

“It was something terrible to see,” Dragan Saran, who was wounded in the upper thigh and right hand, told Reuters. “The people in the kiosks were cut to pieces.”

Television showed grieving relatives and the wounded, but no bodies.

U.N. spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Vernon said the Anglo-French rapid-reaction force fired 39 rounds of 105-millimeter artillery and 120-millimeter mortar shells at a lone Bosnian Serb soldier firing a shoulder-held missile at a North Atlantic Treaty Organization warplane Friday.


If the hospital shelling is proven, the killing of civilians could weaken the United Nations’ resolve to punish the Bosnian Serbs just as the campaign was starting to have some effect--including an agreement reached by the combatants Friday in Geneva that splits Bosnia-Herzegovina roughly in half. Pressure is mounting from Russia for an immediate halt to air strikes.

Early Saturday, Bosnian Serb gunmen fired six surface-to-air missiles at NATO jets about 40 miles northwest of Sarajevo, U.N. officials said. No airplanes were hit.

NATO warplanes also bombed the Serbs’ strategic military base at Lukavica, a repeated target south of Sarajevo. Many buildings were reported heavily damaged in the Saturday action.

NATO officials said they are expanding their list of targets and attacking Bosnian Serb air-defense systems anew after the Serbs apparently repaired missile batteries and radar installations that were bombed in the first days of the NATO air campaign.

The officials also reported success in inflicting damage to bridges in Serb-held eastern Bosnia. Bridges were added to the list of targets, which already included ammunition depots and communication lines.

NATO is also examining whether to move into another phase of aerial bombings that would include strategic targets such as power plants and, eventually, ground forces.


U.S. and European officials said the bombings will continue despite Friday’s agreement in Geneva.