More NATO troops are ordered to halt lawlessness by Serbs Gangs set fires, force civilians to abandon suburbs of Sarajevo

March 11, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

ILIDZA, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- NATO commanders ordered reinforcements yesterday to quell mounting lawlessness and arson in the two remaining Serb-held suburbs of Sarajevo, which are to be handed over to the Bosnian-Croatian federation within the next 10 days.

Gangs of young Serbian toughs, many brandishing weapons, moved about the suburbs of Ilidza and Grbavica yesterday, lighting fires and threatening Serbs who refused to leave.

Bosnian government firefighters, escorted by NATO troops, struggled to put out about a dozen fires, including blazes in clothing and bicycle factories, the police station, a pharmacy and many apartment buildings. They were aided later in the day by firefighters sent by the French troops serving with the NATO force.

Families, some hauling heavily laden carts, others riding in trucks piled with household goods, clogged the roads out of Ilidza and Grbavica, and the few Serbs who remained, most elderly or ill, barricaded themselves in their homes.

"I live locked inside this apartment," an elderly woman said, adding that she intends to remain in her home. "I hear these boys go up and down the stairs and smash things. I'm terrified they will burn my apartment block, but I am old and have nowhere to go. I have to stay."

In defiance of the NATO forces on the streets, groups of young men openly looted shops and homes. The gangs are blamed for the killing of a Serbian man and his daughter who openly encouraged people to stay.

The transfer of the five Serb-held suburbs is part of the peace agreement drawn up in Dayton, Ohio. Three of them have passed to federation control. The remaining two will be handed over before March 20.

Nearly all of the 60,000 Serbs who once lived in the suburbs have fled and are encamped in schools, public buildings and private homes in areas still under Serbian control.

International police monitors have been informed by local Serbian officials that more than 200 buildings and houses will be burned down in the two suburbs in the next 48 hours, according to a United Nations spokesman, Alexander Ivanko.

Senior U.N. officials said yesterday that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization had failed in its mission of providing security for those Serbs who wanted to remain in their homes.

"We would like to see more presence to stop the violence and stop arson," said a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Kris Janowski. "We would like to see as much security as possible, because it's essential for these people to be able to stay."

NATO officials, who have said they do not want the alliance drawn into policing duties, insisted that they had done as much as possible to ensure the safety of the Serbs still in the suburbs. A spokesmen said last night that the alliance would send in many heavily armed foot patrols today to help stem the rising anarchy.

"The situation in the suburbs remains tense and uneasy," said Capt. Mark Van Dyke, a NATO spokesman. "There is considerable potential for it to get worse."

He said NATO "is doing all it can to support the civilian agencies trying to restore calm, as well as law and order."

U.N. and NATO officials have criticized the Bosnian Serb leadership for encouraging Serbs to flee. But the Serbian mayor of Ilidza, Nedjeljko Prstojevic, who had worked hard to keep Serbs in their homes, appeared to give up the effort yesterday when he made a public appeal for truck owners to bring in their vehicles today to evacuate Serbian civilians.

Pub Date: 3/11/96

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