Muslims Retake Suburb After Serb Exodus

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Bosnian Muslims by the thousands returned Tuesday to the most populous Serb-held suburb of Sarajevo to revert to Muslim-Croat control, finding a district heavily damaged and largely emptied by the Serb exodus that has cemented the ethnic division of Bosnia.

Tuesday's formal transfer of Ilidza to government control moved the Bosnian capital closer to becoming a reunified city and away from the goal of ethnic diversity enshrined in the U.S.-brokered peace agreement.

Only about 10% of Ilidza's Bosnian Serb population--about 2,000 people--remains. Most Serbs had left out of fear of Muslim reprisal or because they were terrorized and driven out by gangs thought to be acting under the direction of hard-line Bosnian Serb leaders.

By nightfall, dozens of cases of Muslims looting Serbian property were reported.

Following criticism that its troops had stood by and watched widespread looting and arson for days in Ilidza, NATO ordered increased patrols in Ilidza and Grbavica, the final Serb-held district that will rejoin Sarajevo next week. Soldiers also were given orders to spend more time out of their vehicles to enhance their presence as a deterrence.

Yet senior officials with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization all but conceded that the reconciliation of Sarajevo as a multiethnic capital is a dead concept.

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