SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — A school became a war zone filled with the screams and broken bodies of children Tuesday in the deadliest attack in Sarajevo in nearly a month.
Bosnian Radio quoted Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic as saying nine children died in the mortar attack.
But early accounts had said that at least seven people, including three to four children and one teacher, were killed when mortar rounds exploded near the school entrance. There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy between Silajdzic's toll and the earlier reports.
A woman who saw the attack from a neighboring apartment block said one mortar shell hit a classroom and another landed outside the French-sponsored school in the Alipasino suburb.
"I left my baby in the flat and ran downstairs to see what happened," she said. "I saw the schoolteacher dead and I saw children dead. It was terrible."
The radio quoted civil service officials as saying the shells came from Nedzarici, a suburb held by Bosnian Serbs. But the Serbs denied lobbing them.
"We were writing when we heard that something fired somewhere. Then we heard an explosion . . . and I started running out," Mirza Huskic, one of the wounded children, told Bosnian Radio.
"Suddenly I heard screaming and noise. I went toward home to see where my mother was. Then a man picked me up and brought me to the ambulances."
The attack was the deadliest single incident in the capital since mid-October, when shelling killed more than a dozen people. The sound of battle shook the city for much of the day Tuesday in the worst shelling in weeks.
Sarajevo has been under Serbian siege since April, 1992, when Serbs rebelled against Bosnian secession from Serb-dominated Yugoslavia.
The mortars exploded on the school as U.N. envoy Thorvald Stoltenberg became embroiled in a dispute with the Bosnian government over the abduction by Serbs of two Interior Ministry bodyguards traveling under U.N. protection.
The Muslim-led government suspended the humanitarian evacuation of 300 ailing Serbian civilians until the men, both Bosnian Croats, are released unharmed.
U.N. relief officials protested the government's decision.
Shelling in the southwestern city of Mostar, meanwhile, destroyed one of Bosnia's greatest architectural treasures, the graceful, arched 16th-Century stone bridge that gave the city its name.
The Stari Most (Old Bridge), already weakened in July by Croatian shelling, collapsed into the Neretva River on Tuesday under another Croatian assault.
"This is an attack on the heart of our history and culture," said Muhamed Filipovic, a Muslim politician and historian in Sarajevo. "It was a beautiful piece of art, so harmonious."