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Government Troops Capture Plateau From Bosnian Serbs

October 27, 1994| From Associated Press

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Government troops, in one of their most stunning triumphs of the war, captured a strategic plateau Wednesday as their Bosnian Serb foes fled, abandoning weapons and equipment, United Nations peacekeepers reported.

But any government cheer at the news was tempered by injuries to seven people, five of them children, when a shell exploded in Sarajevo--the worst such incident in months in the besieged capital. Government television said it was a mortar shell.

Hospital officials said the wounded children had been sitting outside a high-rise apartment building. A 14-year-old girl hurt in the attack was undergoing emergency surgery for serious head and stomach injuries.

In northwestern Bosnia-Herzegovina, Muslim-led government forces followed up the capture of a Serbian barracks late Tuesday by sweeping through as much as 40 square miles of Serbian-held territory on the plateau east of the government-held town of Bihac.

"The Bosnian Serb army crumbled," said a U.N. spokesman, Lt. Col. Tim Spicer, citing reports from U.N. observers. "Their command and control system is gone. They're abandoning a lot of equipment--which is very unusual for them."

He described the offensive as one of the most decisive government victories of the war, which until recent months was dominated by the better-armed Serbs.

Bosnia has been at war since April, 1992, when the heavily armed Serbian minority rebelled at a vote by the republic's Muslims and Croats to secede from the former Yugoslav federation. An estimated 200,000 people have been killed or reported missing.

Bosnian Serb military sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, admitted earlier that setbacks in the area had prompted about 5,000 Serbian civilians to flee.

The Belgrade-based Yugoslav news agency Tanjug also cited Bosnian Serb military sources in a report that Bosnian government troops had "succeeded in suppressing Serbian forces" on the plateau east of Bihac.

Though government troops have scored some successes in a dozen recent offensives across Bosnia, their territorial gains had been relatively modest against the better-armed Serbs, who control about 70% of the country.

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