March 18, 2011

During 1993, the convoys did not have an easy ride and were performed with differing levels of success usually depending on local compliance. A humanitarian convoy headed for Muslim areas was invariably halted if it had to pass through Bosnian Serb areas. The harassment did not end there and convoys were often fired upon, despite having armed military escorts who rarely returned fire.  The UNPROFOR rules of engagement were not robust being on the lines of “if I have to retaliate, I will speak to my colonel, who will ask the general, to ask our national defence minister, to ask our prime minister to ask the U.N. to order me to open fire, so be warned.”

Meanwhile, the turbulence continued. In May 92 a shell had killed 16 people queuing for bread in Sarajevo. Almost two years later, in February 1994, a major, indiscriminate atrocity took place, when a single 120mm mortar bomb exploded in the crowded open air Markale, or marketplace, killing 68 people and injuring many others, both Serb and Muslim. Ironically it took place on the day Bosnian Serb, Muslim and Croat leaders were meeting in the city to discuss its future. The Bosnian Serb faction was immediately accused and there were indications that it could have indeed been the culprit.  (However, it was also claimed that the Muslim military could have fired the shell for nefarious publicity purposes. The sniping that took place in Sarajevo and its environs was also credited, in some quarters, to Muslim participants with a vested interest in maintaining the conditions under which the thriving underground economy (black market) could continue to flourish. The arrival of relief supplies would effectively scupper that enterprise.)

The massacre did prompt the UN to demand a withdrawal of heavy weapons around Sarajevo and, although the Serbs did not fully comply, it did reduce the incidence of the  shellings. Openly, the Bosnian Serb army threatened to prevent UN aid distribution if the accusations against them continued, glossing over the fact that they were already doing all that they could to hinder the relief efforts. Later, in 1995 a further shelling of the same market, with a death toll in the fifties, would be the catalyst for the NATO bombings.

One Response to “Markale”

  1. While not essential to the enjoyment of your book, Bob, these posts certainly help to clarify who was probably doing what, and to whom.
    I had no problem living with my ignorance at the time, but I appreciate the opportunity to absorb what was going on over there while I was busy doing other things.

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