The town of Maglaj was reported in flames Sunday as Serb and Croat forces pressed forward in central Bosnia, virtually the only region where large areas of contested territory remain.
The offensives appeared aimed at gaining land and linking it with areas they already control. The outgunned Muslim-led government troops sought just to hold onto their last outposts in the region.In Maglaj, in north-central Bosnia, heavy fighting at close range was reported as government forces fought Serbs and Croats, Bosnian radio said. The town of 30,000 was reported to be in flames.
Maglaj forms the northern tip of a strategic triangle - including Zepce and Zavidovici - that controls access to some of the last major government strongholds in central Bosnia.
Bosnian-Croat fighting also raged in several central Bosnian towns to the southwest, and three U.N. bases in central Bosnia were blockaded by government and Croat forces as part of a feud over a Croat commander allegedly wanted on war crimes charges.
Croats were allied with government forces at the outset of the war, sparked by nationalist Serbs who rebelled against Bosnian independence. But fighting between the two over territory in central Bosnia strained their alliance.
The Bosnian-Croat partnership effectively collapsed two weeks ago when the Serbs and Croats - who now control most of the country - agreed to carve up the country into three ethnic regions. Since then, fighting in central Bosnia has intensified.
The Muslim-led Bosnian government opposes the plan, fearing it would leave Muslims only small patches of territory.
"Maglaj is literally burning and the ground is shaking from detonations," Bosnian radio reporter Hajrudin Fermic reported via ham radio. "The picture of plundered houses on fire now is horrible."
Fermic reported close-range combat and constant shelling.