Sarajevo, 12 November 1996 (RFE/RL) - NATO officials say Russian and American peacekeepers are attempting to end shooting between Bosnian Serbs and Muslims in the northeast Bosnian village of Gajevi.
NATO spokesman Simon Haselock says Russian ground troops participating in the NATO-led peace implementation force (IFOR) have taken up positions between the Muslims and Serbs, backed up by U.S. helicopter gunships.
NATO says firing was heard in the village today, one day after some 150 Muslims equipped with tents and building supplies entered Gajevi. The village is northeast of Tuzla in a demilitarized zone dividing Bosnian Serb-held lands and those controlled by the Muslim-Croat Federation. It was heavily populated by Bosnian Muslims before the war.
Several Bosnian Muslims interviewed in nearby Celic said Bosnian Serb mortar fire forced them to flee Gajevi today. NATO officials could not confirm the report and Haselock said fire was coming from within the village where Muslims were located. One said the Muslims have "substantial weaponry" and "are prepared to use it." Another NATO spokesman, Brett Boudreau, said the actions of the Bosnian Muslims were likely designed to provoke a reaction from the Bosnian Serbs.
Under the Dayton peace accords, refugees are allowed to return to their former homes. But IFOR has said they should do so after reaching an agreement with local authorities.