Serbian guns shatter lull in new attack on Sarajevo

October 17, 1993|By New York Times News Service

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- After a lull of several weeks, Serbian nationalist forces resumed their heavy artillery bombardment of Sarajevo yesterday, setting off panic on the city's streets and raising fear that the siege could take a sharp turn for the worse just as winter approaches.

The Serbian forces on the slopes of mountains overlooking the Bosnian capital began their barrage before dawn, hitting the city center with at least 30 152-millimeter tank shells, the most destructive weapon in their arsenal. Thousands of tank, artillery and mortar shells were fired next in a bombardment that continued until the late afternoon before relenting.

Doctors at the trauma clinic at Kosevo Hospital, the city's main medical center, said that four people who had been brought to the clinic had died of their wounds and that 30 others had been treated.

Such casualty counts in Sarajevo normally understate the toll by a wide margin, since many of those killed and wounded are taken to district morgues and clinics or remain undiscovered in the rubble of destroyed buildings.

The Serbian attack came a week after the Serbian nationalist leader, Radovan Karadzic, said his forces would make no new attacks on Sarajevo and other strongholds of the Muslim-led Bosnian government.

In an interview, Mr. Karadzic said that he considered the war between Bosnia's Serbs and Muslims to be over and that the Serbian nationalist leadership intended to concentrate on rebuilding Bosnia's shattered economy and fostering economic and other ties with Muslims.

In scenes reminiscent of the worst stages of the siege, in the spring and summer of 1992, the city's streets virtually emptied of people and those who ventured out could be seen running from doorway to doorway or sprinting head down across open spaces.

The renewed Serbian barrage followed days of mounting apprehension in Sarajevo. United Nations military observers had reported major Serbian troop movements on the mountainsides around the capital and the deployment of additional Serbian tanks.

In Pale, a Serbian official said Mr. Karadzic's assurances that there would be no new offensive against Sarajevo should not be taken too seriously. "If you ask me, there will be a new attack," he said.

One theory offered by U.N. officials was that the Serbian leadership might be testing the reaction of Western governments to renewed bombardments. In August, the time of the last heavy Serbian attacks on Sarajevo, President Clinton warned that the United States would consider bombing Serbian forces if the threat to the capital continued.

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