More Moslem-owned homes burned in Srebrenica

SARAJEVO, Jul 25, 2000 -- (Reuters) Bosnian officials on Monday condemned arson attacks on Moslem-owned homes in Srebrenica which they said were intended to stop Moslems returning to the town they fled during the 1992-5 war.

The Bosnian Moslem mayor of Srebrenica, elected in a poll in which Moslems were allowed to vote in absentia, said two houses had been burned there over the past week and five last month.

Several thousand Moslems were killed in Srebrenica when it was overrun by Serbs in the worst massacre of the Bosnian war, and only two Moslem families have so far returned to the town, now controlled by hard-line Serbs.

The mayor, Nesib Mandzic, said the attacks were "meant to threaten returnees, obstruct the return. It was aimed against the local administration and the efforts of the international community".

"In spite of this we will continue with reconstruction and returns," he said by telephone from the area.

A statement from the U.S. embassy in Sarajevo said three houses near Srebrenica had been burned over the weekend.

"This makes five houses burned in eight days, 10 in the last month," it said. "These crimes are a cowardly act meant to derail two-way returns and the creation of a civil society in eastern Republika Srpska."

More than 7,000 Moslems went missing in 1995, according to Red Cross estimates, after Bosnian Serb forces overran the town even though it had been declared a UN "safe haven". Some 4,000 bodies have been found and the rest are presumed dead.

The United Nations mission in Bosnia also condemned the attacks. Its spokesman Stefo Lehmann said by telephone that both houses attacked over the past week had been repaired, after previous arson attacks, by a U.S. non-government organization in preparation for the return of their owners.

"It appears to be a continuation of harassment in the area," he said.

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