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23 July  
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1995: British forces sent to Sarajevo
Britain has sent 1,200 troops to relieve the besieged Bosnian capital, Sarajevo.

Bosnian Serbs have controlled access to Sarajevo for three years, killing dozens of people along the 11-mile Mount Igman trail - the only route into and out of the city.

There is no shift from peacekeeping to war fighting
Michael Portillo, UK Defence Secretary
The international mobilisation - Task Force Alpha - has been underway for several weeks but it has been speeded up after two French peacekeepers were killed in the safe haven yesterday.

A UN spokesman has described the mission as a "turning point".

British Defence Secretary Michael Portillo told the BBC, "There is no shift in any sense from peacekeeping to war fighting."

"We wish to provide protection to peacekeepers who are trying to save lives," he explained.

It is the first time the Rapid Reaction Force - set up in May to protect UN peacekeepers - has been deployed and it is the biggest Anglo-French combined operation since the Suez Crisis in 1956.

British forces from the Devon and Dorset regiment join 500 French Foreign Legionnaires based on top of Mount Igman overlooking Sarajevo to the south.

The 720 soldiers of the Devons and Dorsets will secure the route around the capital in 50 Warrior armoured personnel carriers.

They will be backed up by two divisions of the Royal Artillery and a small group of the Household cavalry, along with 180 Dutch soldiers.

The dozen 105mm guns the Royal Artillery is positioning on the 4,500m high mountain are the biggest used in Bosnia so far.

Air support will be on hand from the 664 Squadron of the Army Air Corps.

More precise details of the mission are still being discussed by Western leaders, who met in London two days ago to oppose Serb aggression.

UN spokesperson Alexander Ivanko said of the task force: "They will fire whenever the UN is under attack. Not just if they are fired on on the Igman route but anywhere in the city."

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Photograph of UN tanks and armoured personnel carriers in Sarajevo
Fifty Warrior personnel carriers will secure the Mount Igman route around Sarajevo

UN sanctions the use of force to protect peacekeepers



In Context
Sarajevo was one of six UN designated safe havens in Bosnia to protect Muslim communities.

By July 1995 Serbian forces were attacking all of these enclaves and Western efforts proved unable to prevent a large loss of life.

In the first half of the month the safe-havens of Zepa and Srebrenica were lost to Serbian control, causing humiliation to the Western allies and large scale human rights atrocities.

The UN finally gave in to American pressure to launch Nato air strikes against the Bosnian Serbs at the end of August after a Serbian mortar killed 38 people in Sarajevo.

In December 1995 the Muslim, Serb and Croat warring factions returned to the negotiating table and eventually brought an end to the Bosnian conflict at Dayton, Ohio.

Stories From 23 Jul


 
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