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Bosnians claim Serb rebels already defying "no-fly' zone

Published Oct. 12, 2005

Serb rebel aircraft reportedly bombed two northern Bosnian cities Saturday in defiance of a U.N. ban on military flights over the former Yugoslav republic. Rebel leaders denied the report.

A U.N. peacekeeper from the Ukraine was killed and three other Ukrainians were wounded, one seriously, when their armored car struck a mine west of Sarajevo, U.N. spokesman Mik Magnusson said.

The incident brought the casualty toll among the 15,582-member U.N. force in former Yugoslavia to 17 dead and 243 wounded since March.

Heavy fighting was reported throughout Sarajevo and surrounding areas and in Bosnia's northern Sava River border region with Croatia, where heavily armed Serbs were attacking the few remaining areas controlled by the teetering Muslim-led government.

Bosnian and Croatian radio, quoting correspondents and defense officials, said Serb combat planes fired rockets and dropped bombs on the northern Bosnian cities of Gradacac and Brcko.

On Friday, the U.N. Security Council voted to ban military flights over Bosnia-Herzegovina, a move directed at the Serb rebels, who have about 40 warplanes. Bosnia's Muslims and Croats, loose allies in the fight against the Serbs, have no combat aircraft.

U.N. spokeswoman Shannon Boyd in Zagreb, Croatia, said she could not confirm the report of violations of the so-called "no-fly zone."

More than 14,000 people have been killed in Bosnia since minority Serbs rebelled after the republic's Muslims and Croats voted on Feb. 29 to secede from what is left of Yugoslavia.

Well-armed Serb rebels control 70 percent of Bosnia and have been trying to take the capital during the 7-month-old civil war. The fighting has left the city with no water and serious food shortages.

U.S. and other Western relief flights resumed a week ago after a near monthlong suspension that followed the shooting down of an Italian relief plane.

Germany joined the airlift Saturday by sending a military Transall C-160 cargo jet equipped with a missile system that automatically fires a decoy if a missile is detected. Britain also sent its first relief flight since the airlift resumed.

In Moscow, Russian Prime Minister Andrei Kozyrev said the United Nations may ease trade sanctions on Serbia and Montenegro to help former Yugoslavia get through the winter. He spoke after a meeting with U.N. special envoy Cyrus Vance and European Community peace envoy Lord David Owen.

The U.N. imposed sanctions against the two states for their role in fomenting the war in Bosnia.