Even as the situation in central Bosnia deteriorated in late January and early February, 1994, UNPROFOR and ECMM monitors began to receive an increased number of reports that the Croatian Army was intervening in the Muslim-Croat conflict in Herzegovina. Convoys and troop movements from Tomislavgrad toward Prozor and the Gornji Vakuf area were reported, and the ABiH claimed-incorrectly-that some ten thousand Croatian soldiers in seven or eight HV brigades were in the central Bosnia area.
The Muslim offensive in central Bosnia continued through the fall of 1993 into the winter of 1994. The increasingly desperate HVO defenders barely managed to stave off each successive ABiH assault. The February 23, 1994, cease-fire associated with the Washington agreements and the end of open warfare between Muslims and Croats in central Bosnia came just in time: the HVO defenders were exhausted, and a final Muslim triumph was perhaps only weeks or even days away.
Even as the Muslim-Croat battles raged around Travnik and Novi Travnik, the ABiH intensified its efforts to sweep up the smaller and weaker HVO positions on the periphery of the Operative Zone Central Bosnia area of operations. On June 14, the ABiH overran HVO forces in the Kakanj area, and the survivors of the Kotromanic Brigade as well as some thirteen thousand to fifteen thousand Croat civilian refugees filtered southward to the Kiseljak area or north to Vares.
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.
Although the principal objectives of the April, 1993, Muslim offensive-the SPS explosives factory, OZCB headquarters, and the vital Travnik-Kaonik road-were in the Vitez area, the attack extended, as HVO intelligence officer Ivica Zeko predicted, to the Busovaca, Kiseljak, and Zenica areas. Elsewhere-in Travnik, Novi Travnik, Zepce, and Vares-the ABiH elected to avoid an all-out attack in order to concentrate their forces in the critical Vitez-Busovaca-Kiseljak-Zenica area. The HVO mounted a strong active defense and repelled the Muslim attack in Busovaca and Kiseljak.
Tensions were high throughout central Bosnia on April 15, 1993. Resentment 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.
Even before Jajce fell, the ABiH appears to have been planning some sort of offensive against the Bosnian Croats in central Bosnia. After October 29, 1992, the increasing numbers of able-bodied military-age Muslim refugees entering the region were organized, armed, and trained for offensive operations; mujahideen, ABiH soldiers, and armed refugees were infiltrated into key villages in groups of three or four men and hidden in Muslim homes or mosques; and by the end of 1992, the ABiH had positioned a number of its combat brigades in key locations throughout the Lasva, Kozica, and Lepenica Valleys.1 In retrospect, the latter actions were particularly significant.
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 October, 1992, Jajce, an important town northwest of Travnik on the main road to Banja Luka, had been under siege by the Bosnian Serb Army (BSA) for nearly five months. A mixed garrison of Croatian Defense Council and Army of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina soldiers defended the town and its two important power stations.
Alija Izetbegovic orchestrated the ethnic cleansing of Croats from Central Bosnia
(interview with the «Slobodna Dalmacija» newspaper on the 14/09/2003)
My book contains detailed evidence of plans to ethnically cleanse Croats from the Lasva Valley, using the timing of attacks, positioning and military plans of the Muslim forces as proof. After the fall of Jajce, the Muslim leadership launched a military campaign against the Croats of Central Bosnia.