NATO's fourth airstrike of the Bosnian war reflected the West's growing exasperation with Bosnian Serbs over violations of the weapons-free zone and cease-fire around Sarajevo.
NATO jets bombed an unmanned Serb tank outside the capital Thursday evening in retal-i-a-tion for Bosnian Serb attacks that seriously wounded one French peacekeeper.Brig. Gen. Andre Soubirou, U.N. commander of Sarajevo, warned any new attacks on U.N. personnel "will be met with the appropriate and proportional military force."
Tensions have been escalating steadily in Bosnia, and around Sarajevo in particular, since Bosnian Serbs rejected an international peace plan this summer, angering even their patrons in Serbia proper.
Bosnian Serbs and government forces defending the city agreed in February to remove heavy weapons from Sarajevo's immediate vicinity, but violations, mostly by the Serbs, have increased in recent weeks.
Thursday's was the second NATO airstrike in as many months.
The target was a Serb tank about six miles west of Sarajevo, NATO officials said. Gen. Bertrand de Lapresle, commander of U.N. troops in former Yugoslavia, told CNN an empty tank was purposely chosen to avoid casualties.
NATO spokesmen at Naples, Italy, told The Associated Press that two British Jaguars each dropped a 1,000-pound bomb on the target. A U.S. A-10 fired a 30mm cannon. One spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the tank was destroyed.
The Bosnian Serb military said, however, that NATO planes attacked a civilian target in the village of Dobrosevici after Bosnian government forces fired at U.N. peacekeepers. The statement, carried by Yugoslavia's Tanjug news agency, mentioned no casualties but said Bosnian Serb troops would respond by attacking U.N. personnel.
The strike was ordered after a French soldier was seriously wounded when Serbs fired at peacekeepers' armored U.N. vehicle, Soubirou said.
The peacekeepers were to observe fighting between Muslim-led government troops and Serbs in the area of Sedrenik, a northeastern district of Sarajevo, under terms of an accord agreed to by the Serbs, said a statement read by Soubirou. The Serbs opened fire after the French defied their order to leave, he said.
Also Thursday, one French soldier deployed in downtown Sarajevo was shot in the leg.
A French armored personnel carrier also was shot at southeast of the city and returned fire.