• U.S.

From Civil War To Assassination

2 minute read

HUMANITARIAN SUPPLIES FROM TURKEY WERE ARRIVing at Sarajevo’s airport, an occasion that called for an official reception. Because the road from the capital is frequently under fire, Bosnian Deputy Prime Minister Hakija Turajlic chose to travel by U.N. convoy. The precaution was of no avail. En route back to town, the convoy was halted by 40 Serb irregular troops. After 90 minutes, his captors shot Turajlic, a Muslim, seven times in the chest and head through the open door of the U.N. armored car, in the presence of five French peacekeepers. He died at U.N. headquarters, the first high-level political figure to be assassinated in the former Yugoslavia’s civil war.

Turajlic’s cold-blooded murder outraged fellow Muslims and seemed to scuttle a new Bosnian peace initiative, which opened earlier in the week in Geneva. Meeting under U.N. auspices, the republic’s factional leaders listened to a plan presented by negotiators Cyrus Vance of the U.S. and Lord Owen of Britain that would divide the multiethnic state into 10 largely autonomous provinces. Of these, Serbs would clearly predominate in one and Muslims in three, with power-sharing agreements between Muslims and either Serbs or Croats required in five others. The last province would be long-besieged Sarajevo, slated to become a demilitarized open city. Both Bosnia’s Serb nationalist leader Radovan Karadzic and the republic’s President Alija Izetbegovic, a Muslim, criticized the plan but at the time agreed to attend a second session this week.

The urgency of the situation was underscored by the mounting impact of an icy Balkan winter. No single incident so cruelly epitomized the plight of noncombatants as the discovery by U.N. refugee workers of the bodies of 12 residents of an unheated nursing home for the elderly in Sarajevo, all of whom had succumbed to the cold within two days. U.N. refugee official Jose-Maria Mendeluce warned that barring “drastic” progress in Geneva, “many people here will not survive this winter.”

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