The Fall of Fojnica

Having been stymied in their attempt to force a passage through the Kisel-jak area along the Tarcin-Toplica-Tulica-Han Ploca axis, the ABiH refo-cused their attacks to the west toward Kresevo and Fojnica.6 The HVO forces defending in the Fojnica-Kresevo area included the Ban Josip Jelacic Brigade's 2d and 3d Battalions. The brigade, commanded by Ivica Rajic, had a total strength of about twenty-five hundred men. The brigade's 1st Battalion was responsible for the northern front toward Visoko. The 2d Battalion, commanded by Ivo Kulis, a former JNA infantry captain, held the eastern (Kresevo) sector of the southern front up to Crnice. The 3d Battalion, commanded by the newly assigned Branko Stanic, held the western and northern (Otigosce-Fojnica) sector up to the Busovaca-Kiseljak road with some seven hundred to 950 men.

The ABiH task force of six thousand to eight thousand men involved in the offensive on the Kiseljak enclave from the south included elements of both the III and VI Corps and was commanded by Dragan Andric, a VI Corps officer. As of August 21, 1993, the task force included the local Territorial Defense units and the 310th Mountain Brigade from the Fojnica area (normally assigned to OG Istok); elements of the 317th Mountain Brigade from Bugojno; the 17th Krajina Mountain Brigade, the 7th Muslim Motorized Brigade, and the 9th Mountain Brigade from Pazaric (VI Corps); and the 4th Motorized Brigade from Sarajevo (I Corps).7

The fighting in the Fojnica area began on July 2, shortly after the visit of Gen. Philippe Morillon, the UN commander in Bosnia-Herzegovina, who promised to maintain the town as a peaceful oasis. Fojnica fell to the ABiH on July 10, and the Croats were chased out and went over the mountains to Visnica, where they occupied empty Muslim houses. In the course of the Muslim attack on Fojnica, the ABiH burned part of the HVO war hospital as well as the Hotel Reumal, and the mental hospital was damaged by attacks and snipers from Muslim positions on Zvjezdice opposite the Drin and the Mal Ploca Heights opposite Bakovici.8

Before the conflict began in the Fojnica area on July 2, 41 percent of the town's population was Croat (about sixty-six hundred people), but the ECMM reported in October that the town was almost entirely Muslim, with only 150 Croats remaining—and they were preparing to leave because the Muslims would not provide them with food. Following Fojnica's fall, Croat villages in the area were thoroughly cleansed by the Muslims. On October 3, an ECMM team visited the former Croat village of Tjesilo, which had been completely destroyed, giving, according to the ECMM observer, "an impression of total hate and the wish to completely erase traces of former inhabitants."9

At the beginning of August, the ABiH attempted once more to force the HVO enclave from the northeast in the vicinity of the villages of Han Ploca, Duhri, and Lepenica by cutting across the Lepenica Valley. At the same time, they launched an attack along the Ostja-Kokoska line with the objective of separating the HVO from the BSA in that area. These attacks, too, were repelled. On August 11, the ABiH took Bakovici, but another ABiH attack by elements of the 7th Muslim Motorized, the 17th Krajina Mountain, and the 317th Mountain Brigades lasting from August 21-26 was repelled. The ABiH offensive in the Kiseljak region continued into September with the HVO slowly losing ground in some places and holding on in others.

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