The Vitez Area
Tensions were high throughout central Bosnia on April 15, 1993. Resent- 83 ment over the ABiH's January probing attacks and the increasing number of clashes between Muslims and Croats had created an atmosphere of fear, hatred, and distrust heightened by the kidnapping on April 13 of four officers from the HVO Stjepan Tomasevic Brigade in Novi Travnik, apparently by Muslim extremists. The ABiH blockaded the Novi Travnik-Gornji Vakuf (Uskoplje) road, the main supply route to Herzegovina, on April 14, and at 7:15 on the morning of the fifteenth, Zivko Totic, commander of the HVO Jure Francetic Brigade, was kidnapped near his headquarters in Zenica during a brutal attack that left his four bodyguards and a bystander dead. That afternoon, Lt. Col. Bob Stewart, commander of the British UNPROFOR battalion stationed in the Lasva Valley, traveled to Zenica for a meeting with Muslim, HVO, ECMM, UNHCR, and International Red Cross representatives regarding the Totic kidnapping. The meeting was continued until the next morning, and Lieutenant Colonel Stewart spent the night in Zenica rather than return to his headquarters in Stari Bila. At about 5:30 a.m. on the sixteenth, he was awakened by an urgent telephone call from his second in command, Maj. Bryan Watters, who informed him "all hell was breaking loose in Vitez and the Lasva Valley." Indeed, it was; the main ABiH offensive against the Croat enclaves in the Lasva Valley had begun.
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