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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Shells Blast Bihac as Truce Flags

SARAJEVO -- Heavy shelling erupted Thursday in what appeared to be a new offensive in northwest Bosnia, further pushing an unstable cease-fire toward collapse.


UN spokesman Paul Risley said more than 400 detonations were reported in a four-hour period near the town of Velika Kladusa in far northwest Bosnia, a chronic trouble spot during a truce that went into effect Jan. 1.


It was not clear who was doing the firing, but it was in an area where Croatian Serbs and rebel Moslems are fighting government forces.


UN officials reported Croatian Serb tank and troop movements in the area in recent days, and that it appeared the shelling was part of a Croatian Serb offensive.


No further information was available immediately on the action, which seemed likely to push the combatants closer to resuming full-scale fighting.


With the truce accord, meant to last for four months, not yet fully implemented but already fraying, Bosnian Serbs and the Moslem-led government have been sliding back into the sporadic fighting and pressure tactics that have characterized much of the 33-month-old war.


But Thursday's shelling appeared much heavier than previous exchanges.


UN officials earlier reported scattered shelling and exchanges of gunfire in northeast, northwest and western Bosnia, as well as around the besieged capital, Sarajevo.


Serbs set up a roadblock leading into the government-held enclave of Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia, said a UN spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Gary Coward.


The Serbs also were refusing permission for the UN to bring in materials to deice the runway at Sarajevo airport, a vital link in the international humanitarian effort, Coward said. He said the situation "will go critical in a little while," but did not offer a time frame. The Bosnian government complained that the Serbs were delaying a prisoner exchange that had been planned for Sarajevo. The International Red Cross said the swap was postponed at least until Friday but offered no details.