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The Continuation of the Muslim Offensive, (May-June 1993)

Having failed to eliminate the HVO defenders and seize the core Croat enclaves in Central Bosnia by direct assault in April 1993, the ABiH regrouped in May and in June began a sustained campaign to reduce the Croat strongholds by attacking key points on their periphery. In turn, the Muslims took Travnik, most of the Novi Travnik municipality, Kakanj, Fojnica, and other Croat territory in Central Bosnia as well as Bugojno, Gornji Vakuf, Konjic, and Jablanica on the southern periphery. In the process more than 100,000 Bosnian Croats were expelled from their homes.

The April, 1993, Cease-Fire

The temporary cease-fire in the Lasva Valley area brokered by Maj. Bryan Watters, second-in-command of the British UNPROFOR battalion at Stari Bila, on April 16 and agreed to by the HVO and ABiH commanders the following day, was a fragile reed and did little to stop the fighting in the area. However, pursuant to the military provisions of the Vance-Owen Peace Plan signed on March 3, 1993, RBiH president Alija Izetbegovic and Mate Boban, the leader of the Bosnian Croat community, signed an agreement in Zagreb on April 18 that called for an immediate cessation of all Muslim-Croat fighting; the exchange of prisoners and detainees; proper care of the wounded; the investigation of related crimes; and the reestablishment of communications between ABiH and HVO authorities. The Boban-Izetbegovic agreement also called for the return of all HVO and ABiH military and police forces to their "home" provinces; control over all forces in the proposed VOPP Provinces 1, 5, and 9 by the ABiH Main Staff and in the proposed VOPP Provinces 3, 8, and 10 by the HVO Main Staff; and the establishment of an ABiH-HVO joint command.

At noon on April 21, the HVO and ABiH chiefs of staff (Milivoj Petkovic and Sefer Halilovic, respectively) met at the ECMM office in Nova Bila to discuss the implementation of the Boban-Izetbegovic cease-fire agreement. European Community ambassador Jean-Pierre Thebault presided over the discussions. Although punctuated by bitter charges and countercharges by both sides regarding violations of the existing cease-fire arrangements, the meeting resulted in an agreement for an immediate cessation of combat activities; the separation of forces and insertion of UNPROFOR monitoring elements between them; unhindered patrolling by UNPROFOR units between Kiseljak and Travnik; full guarantees for the Muslims besieged inVitez and the Croats surrounded in Zenica; and a joint meeting of "coordination teams" at 10 A.M. on April 22. Lieutenant Colonel Bob Stewart noted in his diary, "everyone parted on good terms."

Colonel Tihomir Blaskic, a participant in the meeting, subsequently recorded his own observations on the negotiations, noting that the ABiH delegation seemed preoccupied, cold, and worried about the many Croat civilian casualties caused by their offensive. Blaskic's prophetic assessment of the ABiH was that "they are either totally scatter-brained so they have agreed to everything, or they can no longer control their own actions, so now they accept everything in order to create space for a new attack, one they will not give up on." Despite his misgivings, on April 22, Blaskic ordered HVO forces in central Bosnia to implement the chiefs of staff's agree- ments. Subordinate commanders were once again enjoined to halt all com- bat activities against the ABiH and to not respond to Muslim provocations unless ordered to do so by higher headquarters. Nor were they to restrict the movements of UN and ECMM teams. Colonel Blaskic also ordered the withdrawal of HVO forces from the Sljivdc-Vrhovine-BM 808-Gavrine Kuce line and informed his subordinates that the area along the Vitez- Busovaca road-from the Vjetrenica-Zenica road on the left to the Kaonik intersection on the right-was to be a demilitarized zone occupied only by UNPROFOR elements.

The high emotional level of the troops on both sides and the lack of discipline and firm control that had always characterized both the ABiH and the HVO magnified the difficulties of implementing the cease-fire agreements. In the last week of April, Colonel Blaskic attempted to rectify that deficiency by issuing a series of orders relating to the proper conduct of HVO forces, observing the cease-fire and the laws of land warfare, and avoiding interference with the operations of the UNPROFOR, ECMM, ICRC, and other international organizations in the central Bosnia area. Arson and looting were strictly forbidden, and stiff sanctions were threatened against those found guilty of such crimes. Noting that the lack of military discipline evoked the condemnation of the media and the international community, Colonel Blaskic reminded his subordinates on April 23 that they were responsible for enforcing discipline among their troops and that they were to ensure that UN and ECMM patrols and teams were unhindered. He also forbade HVO forces to carry out offensive actions or to respond to isolated provocations by the ABiH, noting that they were permitted to "open fire only in case of direct attack by Muslim forces, but only after an order is issued by the superior commanders, about which the brigade commanders must inform me immediately." The proper treatment of the wounded, civilians, and prisoners was covered in an order issued April 24, and a general recapitulation of the earlier instructions on the proper conduct of HVO personnel was issued the same day. Measures to reduce the spread of rumors and to raise troop morale and defensive spirit were directed on April 28. The following day, Colonel Blaskic again reminded his subordinate commanders of their obligations with respect to the release of civilian detainees. Presumably, the ABiH III Corps commander issued similar admonitions to his troops, although no such orders have come to light thus far.

Following their April 21 meeting, the ABiH and HVO chiefs of staff frequently traveled to frontline areas with UNPROFOR representatives in order to stop the fighting and to personally encourage their troops to obey the cease-fire agreements. Generals Halilovic and Petkovic and their subordinate commanders also met weekly to resolve ongoing issues and work toward full implementation of the Boban-Izetbegovic cease-fire agreement. In view of the continued fighting and the fundamental distrust between Muslims and Croats, the meetings were usually full of recriminations and made little progress toward the ultimate goal. For example, on April 28, Halilovic and Petkovic met at the Spanish UNPROFOR battalion headquarters in Jablanica and discussed three special issues: the security and freedom of movement for ECMM and UNPROFOR elements; the evacuation of civilians from two Croat villages near Konjic by UNPROFOR personnel; and the establishment of a joint operational center in Mostar. From Jablanica the meeting participants traveled to Zenica by way of Tarcin and Kresevo, and then Generals Halilovic and Petkovic, accompanied by Colonels Hadzihasanovic and Blaskic, went to yet another meeting in Visoko. That meeting begun in a bad atmosphere" when General Petkovic complained about an ongoing ABiH attack against HVO positions and set "pre-conditions to any further cooperation." The meeting deteriorated further when it was interrupted by a British UNPROFOR battalion report that a forty-truck UNHCR convoy carrying food for Muslims in Zenica had been «highjacked» by HVO forces in the Busovaca area.

The Joint Coordination Commission (JCC) headed by ABiH colonel Mehmed Alagic and HVO colonel Filip Filipovic was established to implement the earlier January, 1993, cease-fire arrangement. It continued to function in a desultory manner even after the beginning of the ABiH April offensive. However, the JCC became superfluous on April 22, when the ABiH and HVO commanders in central Bosnia took the first step toward forming the Joint Operational Center (JOC) called for in the Boban- Izetbegovic agreement by appointing their representatives: Dzemal Merdan and Vezirj Jusufspahic for the ABiH and Franjo Nakic and Zoran Pilicic for the HVO. The JOC began to function from a headquarters in Vitez a few days later. On April 25, the ECMM representative to the JOC noted that the new organization had gotten off to a slow start but that the presence of experienced members from the older JCC would no doubt ensure better performance in the next few days despite the many cease-fire violations.

The May Respite

The fighting between Muslims and Croats in central Bosnia died down as both sides licked their wounds and prepared for the next round. Minor cease-fire violations and even small-scale engagements between ABiH and HVO forces occurred, but for the most part the situation remained relatively calm. Typical incidents included the killing of an HVO soldier by a sniper near Pokrajcici on May 10, and small-scale fighting between units of the ABiH 306th Mountain Brigade and the HVO Frankopan Brigade on the morning of May 11, which resulted in one KIA and one WIA on each side. The continuing incidents were serious enough, however, to elicit several complaints by the OZCB commander to ECMM and UNPROFOR authorities. At the same time, Colonel Blaskic was obliged to once again remind his own forces of their obligations under the terms of the cease-fire agreement, particularly as related to the free passage throughout the central Bosnia region of UNPROFOR, UNHCR, and other international organizations.

Meanwhile, the JOC sought to prevent incidents and coordinate the efforts of the two opponents to make the cease-fire work. The joint coordination concept was implemented at lower levels as well. On May 11, following talks between Mensud Kelestura, commander of the ABiH 325th Mountain Brigade, and Mario Cerkez, commander of the HVO Viteska Brigade, a joint commission was established to deal with problems surrounding the release of prisoners, care of the sick and wounded, handling of the dead, and essential infrastructure services (water, sewage, electricity, roads, and telephone and telegraph). The members of the joint commis- sion included Borislav Jozic and Stipo Krizanac for the HVO, and Refik Hajdarevic and Nihad Rebihic for the ABiH. Each side was to provide two vehicles and four military policemen with equipment to accompany the commission members. It was anticipated that the commission's work would not extend beyond June 1.

In early May, Colonel Blaskic made a comprehensive assessment of the situation in the OZCB, which he forwarded to the highest authorities of the Croatian Community of Herceg-Bosna and HVO Main HQ in Mostar. With respect to the ABiH's intentions, Colonel Blaskic characterized the situation as one of "overt hostile activity of the forces of the 7th Mechanized Brigade of the MOS [ABiH] and other extremist forces with the clear intention of settling scores with the Croats in the Lasva region" and noted that the Muslim forces "are waiting for materiel and significant logistics support and have for the time being intensified sniping, the torching of Croat houses, and provocations with the objective of making our forces respond vigorously and use up as much ammunition as possible."

Blaskic went on to state that the ABiH "seriously expect 'the job to be finished' in Konjic and then regroup forces and attack Kiseljak, Kresevo and Busovaca via Fojnica." His assessment of the Muslim forces in the central Bosnia region was that they included parts of the ABiH I and II Corps as well as fifteen mountain brigades and assorted units such as the Green Legion, Patriotic League, and mujahideen under the command of the ABiH III Corps in Zenica. He characterized the opposing Muslim units as mainly poorly supplied and poorly equipped infantry forces with large numbers of snipers; frustrated by their lack of success in the Lasva region and thus highly motivated to press the offensive against the HVO; and supported by "extensive use of the media to project an image of themselves as victims." Blaskic believed the ABiH intended "To take full control of the Croatian area of the Lasva region, in particular of Kiseljak-Busovaca and Vitez with the taking of control of Busovaca being a priority. If MOS [Muslim forces in general] achieve these objectives then they would link up with the Konjic- Gornji Vakuf-Bugojno forces on the one side and those of Visoko-Kakanj and Zenica on the other side and thereby totally blockade the Croats of Kakanj, Vares and Zepce."

In support of his estimate of ABiH intentions, Blaskic offered as evidence the pattern of deployment of the Muslim forces, the main body of whom- elements of some six brigades-were grouped to endrcle Busovaca, "their principal task being the total blockade of this city and the cutting off of the Busovaca-Vitez road at Kaonik, to be followed by the total destruction of the city." He also noted the deployment of strong Muslim forces throughout central Bosnia, most of whom were not oriented toward the defense against the Bosnian Serb Army. The 301st Mechanized, 303d Mountain, 314th Mountain, and 7th Muslim Motorized Brigades, together with MOS, Patriotic League, and Green Legion forces were stationed in Zenica; the 304th Mountain Brigade at Breza; the 302d Motorized Brigade at Visoko; the 309th Mountain Brigade at Kakanj; the 305th Mountain Brigade at Biljesevo (rather than in Zenica as UNPROFOR had guaranteed); the 308th Mountain Brigade at Novi Travnik with some three hundred mujahideen at Ravno Rostovo; the 325th Mountain Brigade at Vitez; the 333d Mountain Brigade at Kacuni; and the 306th and 312th Mountain Brigades and 17th Krajina Mountain Brigade at Travnik.

Colonel Blaskic also listed the probable avenues of attack for Muslim forces against HVO positions in the Vitez, Busovaca, and Kiseljak area, and commented on ABiH electronic warfare and intelligence-gathering activities as well as the state of ABiH morale and logistical support. As to the state of his own forces, he noted that their combat readiness was at its highest level, but they were "utterly exhausted and fatigued" and lacked weapons-some fifteen hundred to two thousand guns as a minimum. He also remarked upon the physical separation of the various Croat enclaves and the length of the HVO defense line: thirty-seven kilometers in the Kiseljak area; thirty-eight kilometers in the Busovaca area; and twenty-eight kilometers in the Vitez area-not counting the portions facing the BSA.

Blaskic's concern over a probable resumption of the ABiH offensive was sufficient to warrant a special message on May 15 to Lt. Coi. Alistair Duncan, commander of the British UNPROFOR battalion at Stari Bila, and Jean-Pierre Thebault, the EC ambassador at Zenica, in which he stated: "we use this opportunity to inform you that ABiH forces are gathering and consolidating from the areas of KISELJAK, BUSOVACA and VITEZ. They plan to attack the areas in the above mentioned municipalities." Blaskic went on to request that UNPROFOR units immediately be sent to the agreed-upon separation lines (Kuber-Saracevici-Kula-Dusina, Kacuni, and Grablje as well as in the Ran Bila-Guca Gora area) in order to forestall any Muslim offensive actions.

Colonel Blaskic's anxieties were well founded, and all of the efforts of the JOC, international organizations, the ABiRH and RVO chiefs of staff, and particularly the commander of HVO forces in central Bosnia, to implement the Boban-Izetbegovic cease-fire agreement would prove largely in vain during the month of June.

The Fall of Travnik

The expected resumption of the Muslim offensive came at the end of the first week of June, when elements of eight ABiH brigades struck the HVO forces manning the defensive line against the Bosnian Serb Army in the Travnik area. The Muslim attack achieved tactical surprise and was completely successful, capturing the HVO positions and driving the surviving HVO soldiers and thousands of terrified Croat civilians into the hands of the Serbs, who took them prisoner. 2

Tensions between Muslims and Croats had been building in the Travnik area since January. Between January and April, the ABiH packed troops into the Thavnik area using buses from Zenica traveling via Guca Gora to minimize observation by the HVO. The buses allegedly were engaged in rotating Mus.lim troops on the front lines against the Serbs, but Croat civilians frequently reported that buses were returning empty toward Zenica. Muslim troops and mujahideen from Zenica, Mehurici, and Milize were also hidden in Muslim villages in the area or in groups of two or three in Muslim houses in Croat villages. By April, the ABiH forces in the Travnik area totaled some 8,000-10,000 men under Mehmed Alagic, commander of the ABiH III Corps's OG Bosanska-Krajina (soon to be redesignated the ABiH VII Corps). The ABiH forces in the Travnik area included the 312th Mountain Brigade (about 3,300 men; commanded by Zijad Gaber); the 17th Krajina Mountain Brigade (about 3,300 men; commanded by Fikret Cuskic); the 27th Krajina Mountain Brigade (about 2,100 men; commanded by Rasim Imamovic); the 3d Battalion, 7th Muslim Motorized Brigade (about 900 men); the 1st Battalion, 308th Mountain Brigade; elements of the 325th Mountain Brigade and of the 37th Krajina Mountain Brigade; the "EI Mudzahid" Detachment of mujahideen (about 400 men); some 800 men of the RBiH Ministry of the Interior Police; and two special purpose units: "Mercici" and "Nanetovi," each with around 60-80 men. The town itself and the surrounding area was also packed with some 15,000 Muslim refugees, many of whom were armed. 3

In early April, prior to the Muslim offensive against Vitez, Busovaca, and Kiseljak, the ABiH fed even more reinforcements into the Travnik area. For example, on April 15, an HVO checkpoint near the town stopped an ABiH convoy of three buses, six trucks, and thirteen other vehicles loaded with troops. The Muslim convoy attempted to pass through the HVO lines three times before it was finally permitted to go through to the barracks in Travnik. On June 5, immediately before the ABiH offensive against Travnik began, the Muslim forces in Travnik were reinforced by an additional eight hundred men.

From January to April, the HVO forces manning the defense lines against the BSA in the immediate Travnik area consisted of the Travnicka Brigade, commanded by Filip Filipovic, with all three of its battalions. On April 1, a second brigade-the Frankopan Brigade-was formed under the command of Ilija Nakic, and from that point onward there were five battalions in the sector. In all, there were some twenty-five hundred to three thousand HVO soldiers on the defense lines in April, many of whom were rotated in from other areas in the Lasva-Kozica-Lepenica region. The HVO headquarters on the Travnik front was situated above the town of Travnik in the village of Jankovici.

On June I, the defensive lines facing the BSA in the Travnik area were held in part by the ABiH and in part by the HVO, with the HVO holding about two-thirds of the total line.4 The responsibility for the HVO portion of the line was divided among the HVO Novi Travnik (Tomasevic Brigade, Zeljko Sabljic commanding), HVO Travnik (Travnicka Brigade, Jozo Leutar commanding), and the Frankopan Brigade (llija Nakic commanding). The Tomasevic Brigade held from "Sweetwater" (near BM 1182) south- west to BM 986 near the village of Petkovici, at which point the ABiH continued the line south toward Donja Vakuf and Bugojno. The Travnicka Brigade was responsible for the line from Sweetwater northwest to Kazici (a ground distance of about four and one-half kilometers), where the ABiH took up a short section of about two kilometers running northwest to Giganic. The Travnicka Brigade took over there and continued the defensive line around the Turbe salient and then east to the vicinity of BM 1109. The Frankopan Brigade, headquartered at Dolac, took up the line at BM 1109 and extended it around the Vlasic plateau and then north to the Vlaska-gromila area (near BM 1919), where the ABiH assumed responsibility. The ABiH controlled Travnik, although the HVO maintained a headquarters and other facilities in the town. Muslim roadblocks at Ran Bila and at the entry to Travnik near the mosque at a place called "Bluewater" controlled entry into the town itself.

On June 6, the commander of the British UNPROFOR battalion in the Lasva Valley met with Enver Radzihasanovic, the ABiH III Corps commander, to discuss the growing problems in the Travnik area. Hadzihasanovic, taking a hard line, remarked that the Muslims were left little alternative but military action in what had become "an outright civil war." After the meeting, British UNPROFOR authorities reported, "the BiH were no longer prepared to restrain themselves, and were likely to take the military initiative in the Lasva Valley." A second meeting was scheduled for the same day with Colonel Blaskic, the OZCB commander, but Hadzihasanovic refused to attend because he thought it was "too late for negotiation." The BRlTBAT intelligence analyst noted that the "Corps, judging by the attitude of its commander, seems poised for further military action having clearly rejected the concept of negotiation."5 Indeed, the ABiH was poised for further military action.

Without prior warning, Muslim troops commanded by Mehmed Alagic struck their erstwhile ally on June 6, 1993. Within seventy-two hours, the heavily outnumbered HVO forces in Travnik surrendered or were driven over the Serb lines.6The 303d Mountain Brigade attacked via Ovnak toward Guca Gora, while the 306th Light Brigade attacked in the direction of Pokrajcici. The 312th Mountain Brigade, the 17th and 27th Krajina Mountain Brigades, and the 3d Battalion, 7th Muslim Motorized Brigade, launched attacks directly into the rear of the HVO units holding the front lines against the Serbs. Muslim Ministry of the Interior Police surrounded the "Star" headquarters in Travnik and isolated it. The fiercest attacks, which came on June 8, resulted in twenty-four HVO soldiers and sixty-eight Croat civilians killed. Unable to sustain the house-to-house fighting and unable to obtain reinforcements or resupply, the HVO forces in and around Travnik broke and fled into the Serb lines accompanied by several thousand Croat civilians. On June 10, the new overall ABiH commander, Rasim Delic, ordered his troops to halt their advance.

Having secured the town of Travnik and driven the HVO soldiers from their positions facing the Serbs, the ABiH began systematically clearing the Croat villages northeast of Travnik in order to secure their line of communications to Zenica. At 3 A.M. on June 7, the ABiH attacked elements of the Frankopan Brigade holding the villages of Grahovici, Brajkovici, Plavici, Guca Gora, and Bukovica in an attempt to seize control of the road from Zenica to Travnik. As the HVO units blocking the roads withdrew, the Croat villages fell one by one into the hands of Muslim extremists who engaged in a program of very thorough ethnic cleansing. By June 14, the Zenica-Travnik road via Guca Gora was firmly in ABiH hands. According to contemporary newspaper accounts, Croatian radio reported some thirty-two Croat villages had been cleansed, among which UN sources identified Brajkovici, Grahovici, Bukovica, Radojcici, and Maljine. The story of the village of Guca Gora and its famous Catholic monastery was perhaps typical. Muslim extremists, who had been hiding in nearby Muslim homes, seized the village and desecrated the church in the Franciscan monastery. They carried away the religious statuary and murdered the HVO defenders, several civilians in the monastery, and eight village guard sentinels. British UNPROFOR troops, having observed Muslim troops firing machine guns at Croat civilians fleeing into the woods, prevented an even greater tragedy by rescuing more than 180 Croats trapped in the monastery.7

Croatian radio reported more than 250 dead in the Travnik region, as well as some fifteen thousand Croatian refugees following the June 6-10 attack. According to one contemporary newspaper account, there was "strong evidence of atrocities" as Muslim forces attempted to seize the back roads northeast of Travnik leading to Zenica. By June 9, some 8,000 HVO soldiers and Croat civilians had crossed into the Serb lines on the Vlasic massif, and 1,000 of the HVO soldiers were disarmed and taken by the Serbs to the "notorious Manjaca camp." United Nations sources reported that as of June 10, 500 Croats had been killed, thirty-eight villages had been burned, and some 30,000 displaced persons were in the Novi Bila-Vitez- Busovaca-Novi Travnik area.8 Overall, in June, July, and August, some 427 HVO soldiers and 157 Croat civilians were killed, 1,000 were wounded, 20,000 Croat civilians were displaced, fifteen hundred Croat homes and thirty-one hundred other buildings were burned, and about fifty Croat villages between Travnik and Zenica were destroyed, including Grahovcici, Donja Maljina, Guca Gora, Bikosi, Sadici, Goillja Puticevo, Rudnik, Bila, and Cupa.

Although the Muslim forces had already launched two other major at- tacks since the beginning of 1993, one contemporary newspaper account noted on June 9: "The fighting reflected a possible new Muslim tactic. With attempts to regain territory from rebel Serbs failing, Muslim-led government troops appear to be trying to wrest territory from the Croats. 'I believe that a general (Muslim) offensive is under way,' said Col. Alastair Duncan, commander of British soldiers serving with the UN peacekeeping forces."9

Another contemporary newspaper account noted: "The offensive apparently was prompted by a desperate desire by Muslims for land and revenge after months of defeats by Bosnian Serbs and humiliation by Bosnian Croats. ...By capturing Travnik, Muslim-led forces moved closer to linking their strongholds of Tuzla and Zenica to the north with Muslim-controlled Konjic in the south."
Even the ECMM was forced to admit that the ABiH had indeed undertaken a military offensive against the HVO and Bosnian Croat civilians in the Travnik and Lasva Valley areas.10

The "Convoy of Joy"

As thousands of Croat civilians fled the Travnik area, one group had a chance encounter with a convoy, en route to the relief of Muslims in the central Bosnia area. With emotions in a high state of agitation, the tired, hungry, and desperate Croat refugees-primarily women and children- blocked the convoy's route in several places on June 10 and 11 and spontaneously looted trucks, killing several of the drivers in the process while the UNPROFOR troops stood by, unwilling to fire into the mass of pitiful refugees. The first encounter occurred at about 7 P.M. on June 10, just north of Novi Travnik, when forty to fifty Croat women blocked the road. Shortly thereafter, the BRITBAT received reports that HVO soldiers were dragging drivers from the trucks, shooting them, and then driving the vehicles away. Throughout the night of June 10-11, BRITBAT armored vehicles provided security for the convoy, which began to move again early

diers and Croat civilians were forced across the Serb lines to join the msands of Croat refugees already in Bosnian Serb hands. They were subseqently permitted to transit BSA-held territory to the north of Zenica and enter HVO territory in the Kiseljak area.

On June 18, the Muslims mounted an attack on the new Novi Travnik line with elements of the 308th Mountain Brigade and the 1st and 2d Batallions, 17th Krajina Mountain Brigade, supported by other ABiH forces. The battle for the Novi Travnik lines continued into July with the lines changing in only minor ways. The major foci of the ABiH attacks were the HVO salient south of Rastovci toward Zubici, and the important Puticevo intersection-neither of which the Muslims succeeded in taking. Meanwhile, the HVO achieved some minor successes, taking the ABiH salient around the village of Lazine. Some two thousand Muslim attackers were held off by about 150 HVO defenders.

The June Cease-Fire

On June 15, 1993, the day before peace talks resumed in Geneva, yet another general cease-fire agreement was signed, this time by all three parties the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina: Maj. Gen. Milivoj Petkovic for the HVO, Brig. Gen. Ratko Mladic for the BSA, and Gen. Rasim Delic for the ABiH. The agreement was to go into effect at noon on June 18, at which le all combat activities were to cease and all military activities, to include troop movements and improvement of fortifications, were to be frozen.

Even before the cease-fire was signed, pessimistic British UNPROFOR thorities opined that "the BiH appear to have no intention of surrendering their present advantage, by observing the cease-fire." On June 16, colonel Blaskic, the OZCB commander, issued detailed implementing instructions for the cease-fire in which he instructed his subordinates to issue their own signed orders for the cease-fire. At the same time, Blaskic reminded his subordinates of their obligation to ensure cooperation with UNPROFOR and humanitarian organizations, allow free passage of humanitarian aid, honor the Geneva conventions, and protect human rights. Over the next several months, Blaskic issued no fewer than nine additional orders dealing with such matters as the treatment of civilians and the protection of civilian property, the passage of aid convoys, and the treatment of prisoners of war. That Blaskic's orders reached the lower levels of the OZCB is attested to by the series of implementing orders issued between between 21 and September 16 by Zarko Saric, commander of the 2d Battalion, Viteska Brigade. Of course, issuing orders and guaranteeing compliance with them are two different things, and the June cease-fire was observed more often with breaches by both sides.

In view of the resumption of heavy fighting between ABiH and Croat forces in the central Bosnia region and the obstinacy of the ABiH III Corps mmander, Enver Hadzihasanovic, the JOC, meeting formally for the fourth time at the headquarters of the British UNPROFOR battalion at 10 A.M. on June 28, decided that it was no longer appropriate for the body to sit. The representatives from both sides agreed to notify their commanders they were unable to make any progress and to request that new orders be issued for renewal of the cease-fire, especially in the Zepce-Maglaj area. Both sides agreed to continue to send representatives at regular intervals to meet at the headquarters of the British UNPROFOR battalion, to keep the telephone lines open between Vitez and Zenica, and to continue the operations of the Joint Humanitarian Commission for the release of prisoners.


1 ICTY, Brief of Appellant Dario Kordic, vol. 1, Publicly Filed, case no. IT-95-14/2-A. See Pavo Sljivic, Kordic-Cerkez trial testimony, May 16, 2000. Sljivic was a Croat municipal official in Kakanj.
2 The degree to which the HVO was again surprised by an ABiH offensive may be seen by the fact that on June 1, the OZCB commander ordered a reduction in the readiness level of his units in order to decrease the manpower burden. See HQ, OZCB, no. 01-6-3/93, Vitez 0900, June 1, 1993, subj: Order for combat Readiness of Units re: Combat Order no. 01-5-816/93 of 31 May 1993, KC Z10003.
3 McLeod Report, Annex F, F-3. KC Z926.
4 Ibid.; Filipovic, Kordic-Cerkez trial testimony, Apr. 11, 2000. Despite its much greater manpower resources, the ABiH had only fifteen hundred to seventeen hundred troops actually manning positions against the Serbs in the Travnik sector (see Zeko, Blaskic trial testimony, Sept. 23, 1998).
5 1 PWO MILINFOSUM no. 038, June 6, 1993, KC D164/1. The lack of cooperation by Enver Hadzihasanovic, the ABiH III Corps commander, was confirmed by Brigadier Guy de Vere Wingfield Hayes: "The BiH were no longer prepared to restrain themselves and were likely to take the military initiative in the Lasva Valley, where they enjoyed a tactical advantage over the HVO" (Kordic-Cerkez trial testimony, Mar. 8, 2000). Hayes was UNPROFOR chief of staff from April 7 to October 13, 1993.
6 See, among others, COMBRITFOR MILINFOSUM no. 223, June 7, 1993, KC D317/1, para. 2 and ibid., no. 224, June 8, 1993, para. 2, KC D317/1. Contemporary newspaper accounts reported the HVO was outnumbered four to one. See "Atrocities cited as Muslims rout Croats" Toronto Star, June 9, 1993, A16. HVO leaders later reported that the HVO was outnumbered eight to one (Ljubas, Kordic-Cerkez trial testimony, May 16, 2000; franjo Nakic, Kordic-Cerkez trial testimony, Sept 11, 1998.
7 "Atrocities" A16; Neimarevic conversation; 1 PWO SITREP, 091800B, June 1993, para. 2b, KC D316/1; 1 PWO SITREP; 101800B, June 1993, para. 2b, KC D316/1; COMBRITFOR MILINFOSUM no. 225, June 9, 1993, para. 2c, KC D317/1. See also "Atrocities", A16, "Muslim Forces Push Offensive in Bosnia" Toronto Globe; June 10, 1993, A10. On the desecration of the Guca Gora monastery by the mujahideen, see, among others, UNPROFOR Weekly INFOSUM no. 34, June 21, 1993, para. 4a(2), KC Z1090; and COMBRITFOR MILINFOSUM no. 233, June 17, 1993, para. 2c(3) LC D317/1.
8 COMBRITFOR MILINFOSUM no. 227, June 11, 1993 para. 2c (2), KC D317/1. Major Franjo Ljubas reported that the ABiH expelled some twenty thousand Croats from the Travnik area. He also denied the canard that the Croats left Travnik in response to HVO propaganda (Kordic-Cerkez trial testimony, May 17, 2000). Brigadier Franjo Nakic stated: "no propaganda could have driven these people away. They were forced to flee by the [ABiH] onslaught" (Kordic-Cerkez trial testimony, Apr. 13, 2000).
9 "Croat Town Falls to Muslims," 8.
10 "Muslims Push Offensive for Bosnian Land" Toronto Star, June 10, 1993, A13


Source: HercegBosna.org

Prelude to Civil War in Central Bosnia

Written 08.12.2009. 11:23
The fall of Jajce to the Bosnian Serb army on October 29, 1992, marked the beginning of open conflict between the Muslims and Croats in central Bosnia. Until that time, the two communities had maintained an uneasy alliance against the BSA, but the tension between them grew during the course of 1991-92. The HVO and ABiH squabbled over the distribution of arms seized from the JNA, and there were numerous local incidents of violence by one group against the other. However, only in the last quarter of 1992 did Muslim-Croat disagreements begin to rise to the level of civil war.

In January, 1993, the building animosity transformed into open conflict as the ABiH, strengthened by large numbers ofMuslim refugees and the arrival of the mujahideen, mounted a probing attack against their HVO allies. Muslim extremists, abetted by the Izetbegovic government and fervent nationalists within the ABiH, planned and initiated offensive action against their erstwhile ally in the hope of securing control of the key military industries and lines of communication in central Bosnia ang clearing the region for the resettlement of the thousands of Muslims displaced by the fighting against the BSA elsewhere in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

There is, of course, no "smoking gun" - no operations plan or policy decision document that proves beyond a doubt the ABiH planned and carried out an attack on the Croatian enclaves in central Bosnia with such objectives. The time and place at which the plan was approved, and who proposed and who approved it, remain unknown. Did a written document outlining the plan ever exist? Probably. Does a copy of that document still exist? Probably deep in the ABiH's archives. Will it ever be produced for public scrutiny? Probably not - for rather obvious reasons. On the other hand, neither does such clear evidence exist to support the oft-repeated hypothesis of journalists, UNPROFOR and ECMMpersonnel, and Muslim propagandists that the HVO planned and carried out such an offensive against the Muslims. The answer to the key question of who planned and initiated the conflict between Muslims and Croats in central Bosnia can only be determined by carefully evaluating the thousands of fragments of evidence and fitting them into a coherent pattern showing means, motive, and opportunity in the same way a detective arrives at a viable reconstruction of a crime. The process is tedious, but it produces reliable results. When applied to the events in central Bosnia between November, 1992, and March, 1994, it leads to just one conclusion: only the ABiH had the necessary means, motive, and opportunity; it was, in fact, the ABiH, not the HVO, that developed a strategic offensive plan and attempted to carry it out.

HVO-ABiH Cooperation in the Battle against the Serbs

At the beginning of the conflict with the Bosnian Serbs, the HVO attempted to strengthen coordination in the Muslim and Croat alliance. In mid-April, 1992, the HVO requested that RBiH president Alija Izetbegovic create a joint military headquarters to govern both the HVO and the Muslim-led Territorial Defense forces, but Izetbegovic ignored the request and the issue was never put on the agenda of any meeting of the RBiH Presidency, despite repeated pleas from Croat members of the Presidency. Efforts to improve coordination at the local level also met with Muslim indifference and obstruction. In central Bosnia, the HVO and TO attempted to form a joint military unit to defend against the BSA onslaught. In early 1992, the Vitez Municipality Crisis Staff proposed the establishment of a joint Vitez Brigade made up of a battalion from the HVO and one from the TO. A Croat, Franjo Nakic, would serve as commander, and a Muslim, Sefkija Didic, would be both deputy commander and chief of staff. The rest of the staff would be composed of both HVO and TO officers. However, the Muslims' foot- dragging and quibbling regarding the proposed brigade antagonized the Croats, who increasingly left the Territorial Defense forces for the HVO, which was farther along in its preparations to defend against the Serbs.

Nevertheless, by mid-1992, the hastily assembled and armed HVO and TO forces, with some assistance from the Croatian armed forces, managed to establish a defensive line against the more numerous and much better equipped Bosnian Serb army. However, the BSA had surrounded Sarajevo, the RBiH capital, and the scratch Muslim and Croat forces faced the superior Serb forces on several fronts ringing the newly declared state. The co-operating HVO and Muslim forces faced significant BSA threats in both eastern and western Herzegovina, and a predominantly Muslim army struggled to retain control of several eastern Bosnia towns invested by the BSA. Of principal concern to the commanders of the HVO OZCB and the ABiH III Corps in central Bosnia were an eastern front running from Hadzici north to the Visoko-llijas area; a northern front in the Maglaj-Doboj-Teslic-Tesanj area; and a western front in the area extending from Jajce southward to Donji Vakuf and Bugojno. In all three areas, the RBiH's HVO and Muslim forces struggled to hold back the BSA advance.

The Growth of Muslim-Croat Hostility, March, 1992-January, 1993

Tensions between Muslims and Croats increased steadily throughout the course of 1992 as the two sides vied for political power in the various municipalities in central Bosnia; squabbled over the division of the spoils left by the JNA, which abandoned Bosnia-Herzegovina in May, 1992; sought to gain control over key localities and facilities; and acted to protect their communities from all comers. Despite growing tensions and a number of armed confrontations, the HVO and ABiH continued to cooperate in the defense against the Bosnian Serbs backed by the rump Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) and the remnants of the JNA. However, three essentially unrelated incidents in late October-just before Jajce fell to the BSA - signalled the coming conflict: the Novi Travnik gas station incident, the assassination of the HVO commander in Travnik, and the Muslim roadblock at Ahmici. These incidents led to a flare-up of small-scale Muslim-Croat fighting throughout the region that was tamped down by an UNPROFOR arranged cease-fire. Tensions and incidents increased substantially following Jajce's fall and the consequent influx of Muslim refugees, many of them armed, into the Lasva-Kozica-Lepenica region. At the same time, the mujahideen presence in central Bosnia began to make itself felt, and the ABiH began to infiltrate armed cadres into the villages and to position regular ABiH units in the Lasva-Kozica-Lepenica valley in preparation for the planned offensive.

Following numerous Muslim-Croat disagreements and confrontations in the Busovaca area, HVO authorities took over the Busovaca municipal government on May 10, blockading the town, demanding the surrender of weapons by the Muslim-dominated TO units, issuing arrest warrants for prominent Muslims, guaranteeing the security and eventual evacuation of JNA elements from the Kaonik area, and mobilizing the Croats in the town. Moreover, the Croat authorities announced that the Busovaca HVO would take over all JNA weapons, equipment, and barracks in the local area. The Muslim-led Bosnian government was incensed by the Croats' seizure of control in Busovaca and on May 12 openly condemned the HVO authorities for not handing control of the town over to the central government on demand.

The tensions in the Busovaca area were intensified by the Muslim failure to hold to the agreed upon plan for the distribution of arms from the former JNA arsenal in the area. Several similar incidents occurred elsewhere, resulting in small fights between Muslims and Croats over the distribution of the spoils resulting from the JNA's withdrawal. There was a Muslim-Croat confrontation at the Bratstvo armaments factory in Novi Travnik on June 18 when HVO elements attempted to prevent Bosnia-Herzegovina's Muslim-led government from removing from the factory arms the government intended to sell abroad. Two months later in August, HVO and Territorial Defense elements forced the turnover of the JNA arsenal at Slimena in Travnik. The arsenal had been mined by the JNA, and while the HVO tried to negotiate a surrender and the removal of the mines, TO elements broke into the factory and exploded them. In the aftermath of the debacle, the TO soldiers gathered up undamaged weapons parts, which they subse-quently reassembled to make whole weapons. One result of the consequent increase in the numbers of weapons in Muslim hands was an increase in confrontations in the area.

Representatives of the various Croat communities in central Bosnia met in Busovaca on September 22 to discuss the situation, particularly the growing tensions between Muslims and Croats resulting from one municipality or the other coming under the exclusive control of either Muslim or Bosnian Croat authorities. The conferees enumerated a number of general observations regarding the situation throughout the region. They noted in particular the need to revive the local economy and speed up preparations for winter in case they were totally cut off from Herzegovina and Croatia. They called for better coordination between HVO military and civilian authorities and uniformity of policy. Complaints were also made regarding the behavior of Muslims who acted ''as if they have an exclusive right to power in B and H and as if they are the only fighters for B and H," and regarding Muslim attempts to enforce their policies through the use of Croatian Defense Forces (HOS) elements. Special concern was aniculated regarding the daily arrival of new Muslim refugees in the area, as well as the increasing , presence of Muslim forces in the various towns while HVO forces were busy holding the lines against the BSA and HVO military authorities were being urged to prepare defense plans in case of confrontations with the Muslims.

In mid-October, three apparently unrelated incidents led to open fighting between Muslims and Croats in central Bosnia. The first of these occurred in the town of Novi Travnik on October 18, and involved a dispute that began at a gas station near HVO headquarters. By mutual agreement, Muslims and Croats were sharing the region's fuel supplies. The conflict apparently broke out when Croats manning the gas station in Novi Travnik refused to provide gasoline to a Muslim Territorial Defense soldier. A squabble began, the Muslim was shot dead, and within minutes HVO and TO forces in Novi Travnik were engaged in a full-scale firefight in the town center. The fighting, led by Refik Lendo on the Muslim side, continued for several days despite the efforts of British UNPROFOR officers to bring it to a halt.

News of the fighting in Novi Travnik spread quickly throughout the region. Both Muslims and Croats erected roadblocks, mobilized local defense forces, and in some areas fired upon each other. Even so, the conflict rermained localized and uncoordinated, the Muslim and Croat forces in each town and village acting according to their own often faulty assessment of the situation. However, the situation worsened two days later when the commander of the HVO brigade in Travnik, Ivica Stojak, was assassinated on October 20 by mujahideen near Medresa, apparently on the orders of Col. Asim Koricic, commander of the 7th Muslim Motorized Brigade.1 From about the time Jajce fell, the newly arrived mujahideen had begun to appear in the Travnik area, and the number of small incidents between Muslims and Croats had risen substantially. Nevertheless, Stojak's assassination may have been personal rather than part of some larger Muslim plot against the HVO in Travnik.

Perhaps the most serious incident of the October outburst was the establishment of a roadblock by Muslim TO forces near the village of Ahmici on the main road through the Lasva Valley. The roadblock was established on October 20, and the TO forces manning it refused to let HVO forces en route to the defense of Jajce pass.2 The TO commander in the Ahmici area, Nijaz Sivro, was young and inexperienced, as was his deputy, Muniz Ahmic. Sivro had gone to the front lines against the Serbs in Visoko just before the roadblock at Ahmici was set up, and Ahmic was entrusted with the task of establishing the roadblock by the "Coordinating Committee for the Protection of Muslims." One Muslim officer characterized the setting up of the barricade as "ill-prepared and disorganized," and the initial confrontation at the Ahmici roadblock resulted in one Muslim soldier killed and several wounded. 'Two days later, October 22, the roadblock was removed without a fight, and HVO forces could again use the Lasva Valley road for mo ing troops to the Serb front. During the course of the altercation, the Muslim TO commander in Vitez told the UNPROFOR's Lt. Cot. Bob Stewart that Muslims had established the roadblock at Ahmici to prevent the HVO from reinforcing their forces then fighting in Novi Travnik. In fact, the establishment of the roadblock had been ordered by the ABiH zone headquarters in Zenica (later HQ, III Corps). 3

After several days of fighting and almost fifty casualties in the Lasva region, officers of the British UNPROFOR unit managed to negotiate a ceasefire on October 21 in the Vitez area that was then extended to Novi Travnik and the rest of the region. The Muslirn-Croat fighting had been widespread, but it appears to have been spontaneous rather than the result of a coordinated action by either side. Although a planned provocation by the Muslims, in and of itself the October 20 roadblock at Ahmici was a minor event. As far as the HVO authorities at the time were concerned, it was not a serious incident. It took on much greater significance, however, after HVO forces assaulted the village on April 16, 1993. Those who wished to portray the HVO as the aggressor in the Muslim-Croat conflict in central Bosnia have painted the October incident as a cause of the April, 1993 events, although the only real connection between the two is that they occurred in approximately the same location: the point at which the village of Ahmici touches the Vitez-Busovaca road at the narrowest part of the Lasva Valley.

One historian has characterized the period from January, 1992, up to the outbreak of Muslim-Croat hostilities in late January, 1993, as one in which "there was some 'pushing and shoving' between Croats and Muslims, and a lack of wholehearted cooperation as each group sought to stabilise and strengthen its own territory."4 Indeed, one can point to numerous small-scale local confrontations between Muslims and Croats in central Bosnia during the course of 1992 designed to gain control over stockpiles of arms, munitions, and other military supplies; to gain control of key facilities or lines of communications; and to test the other side's will and capabilities to resist. Such incidents increased in frequency and intensity after Jajce fell on October 29, 1992, but they do not appear to have been part of a coordinated plan by either party. Indeed, they appear to be random, unconnected, and short-lived episodes resulting from the increasing level of tension and distrust between the two communities in central Bosnia. Even the build up of Muslim forces, the infiltration of armed ABiH soldiers and mujahideen into key villages and towns, and the suggestive positioning of ABiH units in central Bosnia went largely unnoticed by the HVO at the time.5 Only in retrospect do they appear to be part of a pattern of actions taken by the ABiH to prepare for the opening of an all-out Muslim offensive against the Croatian community in the Lasva-Kozica-Lepenica region.

The ABiH Strategic Offensive Plan

Although its author and the date of its creation remain uncertain, events clearly reveal the existence of an ABiH strategic offensive against the HVO in central Bosnia that began in mid-January, 1993, and continued in several phases until the signing of the Washington Agreements in late February, 1994. The strategic objectives of the plan were:

1. To gain control of the north-south lines of communication (LOCs) passing through the Bosnian Croat enclave in central Bosnia, thereby linking the ABiH forces north of the Lasva-Kozica-Lepenica Valleys with those to the south and securing the Muslim lines of communication to the outside world.
2. To gain control of the military industrial facilities in central Bosnia (the SPS explosives factory in Vitez and factories in Travnik and Novi Travnik) or on its periphery (factories in Bugojno, Gomji Vakuf, Prozor, Jablanica, Konjic, and Hadzici, among others) so as to facilitate the arming of the ABiH in the war against the Serbs.
3. To surround the Bosnian Croat enclave in central Bosnia and divide it into smaller pieces that could then be eliminated seriatim, thereby clearing the Croats from central Bosnia and providing a place for Muslim refugees expelled by the Serbs from other areas to settle.

Achieving the third objective would also ensure that the Muslims retained political control of central Bosnia so they could continue to dominate the RBiH's central government. There was probably also an anticipation of a peace agreement that would result in a partition of Bosnia-Herzegovina among the Serbs, Muslims, and Croats, in which case possession of the Lasva-Kozica-Lepenica region would probably be tantamount to its inclusion in the Muslim area under any settlement, regardless of the area's former ethnic composition, a principle that was observed subsequently in areas seized by the Serbs. In fact, the area in question was part of Canton 10 , under the Vance-Owen Peace Plan and was assigned to the Croats, but at the time the Muslim offensive plan was devised and set in motion the issue was still undecided.6 In any event, occupation by the ABiH of the Lasva-Kozica-Lepenica region would probably be cause for revision of the VOPP. In a larger and less sinister context, the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina's infant central government may simply have been eager to exert its authority over such territory as had not already been taken by the Bosnian Serbs. It should also be noted that the Croat enclaves in northern Bosnia posed no threat politically or militarily to the Muslim-led government and were useful for propaganda purposes to show the multiethnic composition and co-operation in the Muslim-led RBiH.

Such a complex and far-reaching plan could only have been worked out in the ABiH General Staff under the direction of Chief of Staff Sefer Halilovic, and further elaborated in Enver Hadzihasanovic's III Corps headquarters. Only they had the resources and expertise to prepare such a plan, and there are some indications that they had considered such a plan much earlier. By the time Jajce fell at the end of October, 1992, the ABiH's logistical situation was near collapse. The Izetbegovic government had failed to induce the United Nations to cancel its arms embargo or to intervene militarily, and, despite Chief of Staff Halilovic's persistent entreaties, had done little to mobilize the Bosnian economy for war. Too weak to seize the arms and equipment it needed from the far more powerful Bosnian Serb army, the ABiH still had sufficient strength to overpower its erstwhile ally, the HVO-at least in the central Bosnia area. Success in such an endeavor would solve two of the most pressing logistical problems. First, it would provide an immediate gain in arms and other equipment, which could be quickly turned against the Serbs. Second, it would open the ABiH's lines of communications through central Bosnia, thereby facilitating the more effective deployment of available ABiH troops, armaments, and supplies, as well as the importation of arms, ammunition, and other vital supplies obtained on the international arms market. Moreover, General Halilovic's associates on the ABiH General Staff had long since identified Kiseljak, Busovaca, Vitez, and Vares as the site for refugee settlements. In the summer of 1992, two of Halilovic's subordinates, Rifat Bilajac and Zicro Suljevic, attended a meeting at SDA headquarters in Sarajevo to discuss the refugee situation. Halilovic relates that they returned to the headquarters infuriated, Bilajac stating angrily:I was informed about everything in the SDA headquarters. There were some 10-12 members of the executive committee present, and when I suggested that refugee settlements should be built in Kiseljak, Busovaca, Vitez and Vares, Behmen tells me nicely: 'It can't be there, as that's Croat national territory.' The other members were silent. Then we quarreled and left the meeting. Well, what are we dying for if this is Croat national territory?"7

As to the question of when such a plan might have been conceived, it is important to note that the ABiH III Corps first openly attacked HVO forces in the Lasva Valley in late January, 1993. A significant amount of time, probably not less than two months, would have been required to assemble and prepare the forces necessary for an offensive on the scale of the January attacks. Thus, the basic plan needed to have been completed no later than November 1, 1992, suggesting that the necessary planning was already in progress even before Jajce fell. It seems likely, therefore, that the concept of the ABiH strategic offensive against the HVO in central Bosnia was developed in the late summer or early fall of 1992 and that the “go-no go" decision was probably made in early November-soon after the fall of Jajce.

The HVO Reaction

While the ABiH was clearly the aggressor in the Muslim-Croat civil war in central Bosnia, the HVO commanders did not sit idly by waiting to be overrun by their more numerous Muslim opponents. Instead they adopted what is known in U.S. military parlance as an "active defense” that is, a defense in which the defender actively and continuously seeks to improve his defensive posture by seizing and controlling key terrain and lines of communication, degrading the enemy's offensive capabilities, and acting aggressively to spoil enemy attacks and keep the enemy off balance.8 To an observer on the ground who did not understand the overall strategic situation-particularly one prone to rash judgments and broad inferences-the HVO's conduct of the active defense might well appear to have been offensive in nature. Yet, the fact is, it was largely reactive and preventive.

Thus, from an HVO perspective the strategic battle was entirely a defensive one, albeit marked by selective use of preemptive spoiling attacks (pre- ventivi), counterattacks, and other offensive actions designed to support the Croat defensive strategy by the conduct of an “active defense" rather than a purely positional defense in the Lasva-Kozica-Lepenica Valleys. Surrounded, heavily outnumbered (by as much as eight or ten to one according to some accounts), and logistically bankrupt, it would have been com- pletely illogical for the Croats to try to mount a systematic campaign to expand the enclave or to ethnically cleanse Muslims from the Lasva Valley, much less from all of the proposed Canton 10. One former HVO officer has said that an HVO commander would have had to be "insane” to have contemplated an offensive against the Muslims given their tenuous manpower, logistics, and full deployment against the Serbs.9 They were barely able to repel the repeated Muslim attacks and were certainly too weak in numbers, arms, and ammunition to attempt a major offensive. Nevertheless, the hard-pressed HVO forces did manage to mount a number of small offensive actions to secure better defensive positions, prevent the Muslims from obtaining their objectives, and to clear their rear areas of troublesome Muslim enclaves. Generally, a clear military necessity can be shown for each of those offensive actions. More commonly, the HVO forces simply took up defensive positions and repelled a series of increasingly heavy Muslim attacks that inexorably whittled away the territory held by the HVO, inflicted casualties, and slowly asphyxiated the Bosnian Croat defenders.


1 Ljubas, Kordic-Cerkez trial testimony, May 16, 2000; Filipovic, Kordic-Cerkez trial testimony, Apr 11, 2000.
2 Zeko, Blaskic trial testimony, Sept. 11, 1998.
3 Maj. Sulejman Kalco, Kodic-Cerkez trial testimony, Mar. 7, 2000. Kalco was deputy commander of the Muslim forces in Stari Vitez in 1993. He later retired from the Federation Army.
4 O’Ballance, Civil War in Bosnia, 48
5 Major Zeko, the HQ, OZCB, intelligence officer at the time, noted that although he mentioned to his superiors several times the growing disadvantage of the HVO position in the area due to Muslim infiltration and the positioning of ABiH forces to the rear of HVO units defending the front against the Serbs, there did not appear to be any urgent reaction on the part of the HVO leadership (conversation with author, Split, Aug. 17, 1999)
6 The Vance-Owen Peace Plan canton map was not agreed upon until January 10-12, 1993.
8 Halilovic, Lukava Strategija, 78. See also the comments of journalist Ed Vulliamy regarding the "grand scheme" of Mehmed Alagic, a senior ABiH commander in central Bosnia, for "consolidation of the Muslim triangle in central Bosnia" (Seasons in Hell, 257-58)
8 U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Pub 1-02, 3, defines "active defense" as: "The employment of limited offensive action and counterattacks to deny a contested area or position to the enemy". Indeed, the former commander of OZ Northwest Herzegovina used the term exactly in its American sense to describe the series of small counterattacks and other offensive actions taken by the HVO in the Lasva-Kozica-Lepenica Valleys and elsewhere (Maj. Gen. Zeljko Siljeg, conversation with author, Medjugorje, Aug. 23, 1999)
9 Zeko conversation, Aug. 27, 1999.

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