Muslims, Croats still battling Fighting continues in central Bosnia fourth straight day

October 23, 1992

SARAJEVO — SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- Croat and Muslim militiamen 0) battled for a fourth straight day in central Bosnia today, further straining their shaky alliance against ethnic Serbs. Indian Gen. Satish Nambiar, commander of U.N. peacekeeping troops in former Yugoslav republics, said in Zagreb, Croatia, that leaders of the two factions were trying to keep the feud from spreading.

Tensions between Croats and Muslims have broken into scattered battles this week and added an ominous new ingredient to the war begun nearly eight months ago by Serbs who opposed Bosnia's secession from Yugoslavia. More than 14,000 people have died since the war erupted.

Meanwhile, Serbs were again accused of violating a U.N. ban on military flights by staging air attacks on Brcko, which lies in a strip of northern Bosnia linking the republic of Serbia to Serb-held areas in Croatia. Sarajevo radio said Serb helicopters fired rockets at positions held by troops loyal to Bosnia's Muslim-led government.

The leader of Bosnia's Serbs has signed a U.N. agreement promising to put his faction's 50 warplanes and military helicopters under Serbian control, but no aircraft have been moved yet. The aircraft were given to the insurgent Serbs by the Serb-dominated Yugoslav army.

In other developments:

* Serbia's governing party of former Communists began a closed-door congress today at which opponents of President Slobodan Milosevic's hard-line policies were expected to be purged. His support for Serb insurgents in Bosnia led the U.N. Security Council to impose trade and diplomatic sanctions on Yugoslavia, which now includes only Serbia and Montenegro.

* Nearly 200 Spanish paratroopers and legionnaires boarded a transport ship today to sail to Bosnia as reinforcements for the U.N. peacekeeping force; about 500 more are to leave by early November. Some 1,600 U.N. soldiers are now based at Sarajevo and 600 more are guarding relief convoys.

Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital that has been besieged by Serbs for months, enjoyed a rare day of relative peace. Pedestrians clogged streets deemed safe from sniper fire.

Water, out for more than a month, has been restored to most areas of the city by U.N.-protected utility crews, who have braved sniper fire and shelling. Electricity also has been restored in many places during the last two days and apartments are now lighted at night.

Representatives of the three main ethnic factions planned to meet under U.N. guidance to discuss the demilitarization of the city, which faces severe shortages of food and other essentials as winter approaches.

But the fighting between Muslims and Croats north of the city caused the Red Cross to cancel plans to evacuate 6,000 women, children, elderly and handicapped people from Sarajevo.

The nominal alliance between Muslims and Croats has frayed as Croat militiamen have taken control of much of Bosnian territory not held by the Serbs. The Serbs control about 70 percent of Bosnia.

Many Muslims fear the Croats and Serbs are planning to partition Bosnia into ethnic enclaves, particularly after Croats gave up the northern government stronghold of Bosanski Brod to the Serbs earlier this month.

Muslim and Croat fighters have clashed in several towns of central Bosnia since Tuesday. Croat troops also fought Muslims in Mostar, capital of the republic's Herzegovina region in the west.

Sarajevo radio and the Yugoslav news agency Tanjug reported battles today around Novi Travnik, about 35 miles north of the capital. Sarajevo radio said dozens of people were wounded. Tanjug, quoting the Croat military command, said Muslim troops fired artillery at Croat positions.

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