Bosnia refugees reach haven after journey

May 24, 1992

SPLIT, Croatia -- More than 5,000 Bosnian refugees, held hostage for nearly three days by Serb gunmen, have reached the Adriatic port of Split after a hazardous mountain journey, Croatian officials said yesterday.

The refugees, including pregnant women and newborn babies, began arriving in the port city late Friday. More buses and cars were still on their way, said a Croatian official in Split.

"About 5,000 have arrived so far and they will be staying at a bus depot before they carry on their journey to Rijeka and Italy," he said. Nearly 7,000, mainly Slav Muslims were believed to be in the convoy that set out Monday from the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo.

More than 2,250 people have been killed and close to 1 million displaced in fighting that erupted after Bosnia's minority Serbs revolted against a majority Muslim-Croat vote for independence from the Yugoslav federation in March.

Serb paramilitaries had held the refugees hostage at a roadblock in the Ilidza district of Sarajevo and said they would be freed only if Serbs could collect their dead in the city's Muslim-held area of Pofilici.

After two days of bargaining, the Serb irregulars allowed the convoy to leave on a journey that took them through the barren eastern Bosnian mountains of Cvrsnica and Vrana.

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