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Bosnia's Muslims Target Croatian-Held Explosives Factory

September 26, 1993| From Reuters

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — The Muslim-led Bosnian army launched fresh attacks on Croatian troops in central Bosnia on Saturday as it set its sights on taking a major explosives factory held by the Croatians.

In Sarajevo, under Serbian siege for 17 months, tensions eased temporarily between Muslim and Croatian forces defending the city.

"The Muslims have resumed their offensive with attacks on Vitez and the explosives factory," Darko Gelic, a liaison officer with the Croatian Defense Council, said Saturday.

Two Croatians were killed and six wounded at Zabrdje, a village southwest of the strategic Vitez factory.

Bosnian government troops hope to capture the factory and its rumored 100 tons of high explosives, but Croatians have told U.N. peacekeepers that they will blow up the facility rather than surrender it to the Muslims.

Muslim troops launched an offensive on Croatian positions in central Bosnia's Lasva River valley eight days ago, reportedly surrounding about 65,000 Croatians in the areas of Busavaca, Vitez and Novi Travnik.

Muslim troops have pressed attacks on Croatian lines from the north and south around Vitez, narrowing the defenders' positions to an area only two miles across at some points.

In Sarajevo, Bosnian Croat forces were granted a week's delay after receiving an ultimatum earlier to hand over front line positions in Sarajevo to Bosnian army forces.

Bosnian Croat forces in Sarajevo, who have been helping the Muslims defend the city from Serbians in spite of fighting between the two former allies in central Bosnia, had been told to withdraw from their positions in the city center by Friday night.

The ultimatum was postponed after local Bosnian Croat leader Slavko Zelic met Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic in the Bosnian capital.

"Now we have time to find a political solution," Bosnian Croat spokeswoman Jadranka Kalmeta told reporters in Sarajevo.

Meanwhile, Croatian forces said Saturday that they had agreed on a cease-fire with the Muslim-led army in the southwest city of Mostar, a major flash point in Bosnia's civil war.

The Croatian state news agency HINA said the cease-fire accord was signed by senior Bosnian Croat and government army officers in nearby Medjugorje with the mediation of senior U.N. peacekeeping official Cedric Thornberry.

It did not say when the cease-fire was to take effect, and there was no immediate confirmation of the agreement from the Muslim side or the peacekeeping U.N. Protection Force.

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