October 12, 1995
Web posted at: 1:15 a.m. EDT (0515 GMT)
From Correspondent Jackie Shymanski and CNN reports
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (CNN) -- Residents celebrated a long awaited cease-fire Thursday with volleys of gunfire.
The cease-fire went into effect Thursday at 12:01 a.m. local time (23:01 GMT), but it was too soon to tell whether it was honored.
The streets of Sarajevo were quiet and abandoned by all but security patrols under a curfew which began at 10 p.m., Reuters reported.
A blast rocked the city only 40 minutes before the truce began. According to Reuters, police could not tell whether the explosion was a shell or a gas explosion triggered by the resumption of supplies to households through war-damaged underground pipes.
The 60-day truce had been delayed for two days while gas and electricity were restored to the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo.
Antonio Pedauye, the head of the United Nations mission, urged the warring parties Wednesday to honor the cease-fire.
"It is my earnest hope that today we have witnessed a significant and possibly historic step along the way toward a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina," he said. (502K AIFF sound or 502K WAV sound)
Even as he spoke, rivals fought for last-minute territorial gains in northwestern Bosnia. The Muslim-led government said its troops and Croat allies seized two Serb-held towns in the hours before the cease-fire.
Thousands of Serb refugees have fled their homes after suffering serious battlefield losses in the last few days.
Croatian troops now control the town of Mrkonjic Grad, and a key road that links them with Bosnian government troops from north to south. The city of Sanski Most is believed to have been taken as well.
The cease-fire may not improve the fate of thousands of Muslims still in Bosnian Serb territory to the north. As many as 10,000 people have been expelled by Bosnian Serb paramilitary troops.
Survivors who reached the safety of Bosnian government territories told stories of horror. (442K AIFF sound or 442K WAV sound)
Most of the refugees are women, children and the elderly. Many draft-age men were taken away, possibly to concentration camps. Their safe return is one of many issues to be resolved before there can be lasting peace for the country.
Peace negotiators hope the truce will pave the way for talks in the United States, set for the end of this month.
As the warring sides look toward peace negotiations, an international court is looking into allegations of war crimes committed during the three-a-half-year war.
On Wednesday, Muslim survivors of a Bosnian Serb prison camp described to the court incidents of torture, repeated sexual abuse of women prisoners. They said some people were beaten until they died.
The testimony points toward the man who allegedly ran the camp, Dragan Nikolic. He has not appeared before the court, and cannot be tried in absentia. The court can issue an international warrant for his arrest.
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