NATO Troops Get Tough with Bosnian Serbs Holding Arms
"Time to go, boys," U.S. soldiers told the Serb commanders of a mechanized brigade in northern Bosnia, according to NATO spokesman Maj. Herve Gourmelon.
The operation was part of a crackdown by the NATO-led peace force on unregistered weapons. The Bosnian peace accord requires warring parties to remove or register any heavy weapons remaining in a six-mile demilitarization zone on each side of front lines.
The crackdown began Friday and continued through the weekend. The Americans escorted the Bosnian Serb division and its armament away from positions near Modrica, 45 miles north of Tuzla to Derventa, 10 miles further west.
Day 59 of Operation Joint Endeavor included a face-to-face showdown over a cache of Serb weapons. On Sunday (Feb 18), Bosnian Serbs denied NATO access to a weapons depot, just as they had on two earlier occasions. U.S. Colonel John Batiste was going in anyway.
"I want you to know I'm going in with or without your permission," Batiste told the Serb officer blocking his way. "I have above me air support. I have helicopters I can order in within a minute and I have artillery targeted right where we are standing and we can use it if we have to, Batiste said. The Serbs made way.
Batiste found 25 tanks, 13 armored personnel carriers, four air defense systems and other weapons, said NATO spokesman Lt. Col. Mark Rayner. Witnesses said Black Hawk and Apache helicopters backed up the ground force. The tanks were escorted from positions near Modrica, 45 miles north of the main U.S. base at Tuzla, to Derventa, 10 miles further west.
On Sunday, NATO continued surveillance of 21 unregistered weapons, 13 in the zone patrolled by American forces and eight in the French zone, Rayner said. That was down from nearly 60 Saturday.
Berserkistan's Johnathan Thornton captured up-close images of Serb artillery
likely captured by NATO. His photojournalism can be seen on these pages in
the Berserkistan Gallery:
The Fall of Modrica
Battle of Derventa
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