Tuzla, Bosnia-Herzegovina; 16 July 1997 (RFE/RL) - A U.S. soldier was stabbed by a civilian in Bosnian-Serb territory today, the latest attack on foreigners since recent moves by the NATO-led stabilization force in Bosnia to apprehend war crimes suspects.
U.S. Army spokesmen said the soldier, serving with the NATO force in Kladanjin, was stabbed from behind with a sickle and received treatment for a shoulder wound before being released. The attacker apparently escaped.
Earlier today, a hand grenade exploded near the house of a U.N. employee - the third recent blast near residences of international officials.
Before the stabbing and after the most recent blast, in Prijedor, U.N. police spokesman Liam McDowall said it was still too early to tie the incidents together. Another spokesman, Alun Roberts, said U.N. police would treat today's blast as an isolated incident.
Meanwhile, France today denied it was less eager than other participants in the NATO-led stabilization force in Bosnia to see war crimes suspects delivered to the international war crimes tribunal.
Foreign ministry spokesman Jacques Rummelhardt told reporters in Paris that France is a strong supporter of bringing all war crimes suspects in the former Yugoslavia to justice. But he said the main responsibility for seizing suspects lay with the local authorities.
Rummelhardt was responding to a New York Times report today quoting U.S. officials as saying France considered as too risky a plan by the NATO Stabilisation force in Bosnia (SFOR) for a follow up action to last week's operation against two Bosnian Serbs indicted for war crimes. British troops arrested one man and shot dead a second in the northwestern town of Prijedor. The arrested man is now at the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague.
Many of Bosnia's most prominent suspected war criminals, including former Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic and his former military commander Ratko Mladic, reside near Pale, in SFOR territory under French command.
Last week, the U.S. White House refused to confirm or deny that a plan existed to arrest both men.
U.S. President Bill Clinton and other western leaders have expressed concern at threats to Bosnia's peace by war crimes suspects still at large and have strongly urged local authorities to do more to hand over suspects in line with the Dayton accord. The U.S. has stressed NATO forces will not hunt down suspects.