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Battle of Vozuća

Battle of Vozuća

Battle of Vozuća is the name of a series of battles between the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ARBiH) and the Army of the Serbian Republic (VRS) which took place during the Bosnian war, between May and September 1995 in the vicinity of the strategically important village of Vozuća. Vozuća was an important economic and cultural center of the Bosnian Serbs. Its defenders were nicknamed The Monastery Guards (Čuvari manastira) after the medieval monastery Vozućica in its vicinity. Located on the road between Tuzla and Zenica, in a protruding area between ARBiH controlled zones,  Vozuća represented an obstacle for the key communication network for the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ARBiH), that had to be breached.


Throughout the war, Vozuća had the reputation of the strong Serbian stronghold, and conquering it would physically connect the second and the third corpora of the ARBiH and two economic regions, which would provide the necessary preconditions for the new offensive towards the north, the town of Doboj and the Sava river. Defenders of Vozuća managed to repel the Bosniak offensives in 1992, 1993, and the one in 1994, which was the largest one, coordinated between the second and the third corpus of the ARBiH.


The initial phase of the Battle of Vozuća was the ARBiH offensive under the code-name Red Lion. It took place on the 27th of May 1995, and the objective was to cut the communication of the VRS in Vozuća. The terrain was previously carefully examined, and the attackers were informed about Serbian defense positions and minefields. The attack was mostly carried out by the El- Mujahideen Brigade which consisted of foreign Muslim volunteers from over 40 countries. In the fights around the strategic spot Podsjelovo in the vicinity of Vozuća, which lasted until the mid of June, the Serbian Prnjavor Brigade has suffered heavy losses, and the Bosniaks managed to run over the Serbian positions. One of the leaders of the El - Mujahideen brigade, Abu Abdullah, was killed during the battle. In the closed trench combat that lasted until the mid of July, the Serbian defense lines were pushed 2 kilometers further, with heavy losses on both sides. Every Serbian counter-attack attempt was unsuccessful.


The final phase the battle of Vozuća took place between 10th and 24th September 1995. The Bosniak offensive under the codenames Hurricane 95 (Uragan 95) was performed with 13 brigades from two corpora of ARBiH, the second and the third, that included the best available units; Diversant Batallion Black Wolves, El- Mujahideen brigade, and the elite special forces unit Black Swans (Crni Labudovi). The ARBiH force numbered around 23000 soldiers and had the support of the NATO air force. The defenders of Vozuća were local Serbian soldiers from the 4th Ozren Brigade, which numbered 1.176 fighters scattered on the 30 kilometers long frontline. The 4th Ozren Brigade was supported by the second and the third battalion of the Srbačka brigade, police units from Doboj, and the 14th Serbian Light Infantry Brigade, which numbered 500 fighters.


The attack began at dawn on the 10th of September, with combined tank and infantry assault, following NATO airstrikes. The main task of the operation was taking over the fortified position Paljenik, a task that was entrusted to El- Mujahideen brigade. The brigade charged the positions of Srbačka light brigade and managed to overrun it in 10 minutes while suffering heavy losses.

Despite the higher force concentration of the Bosniak army and the lack of ammunition and fuel, the Army of the Serbian Republic (VRS) showed hard resistance at several spots of the frontline, but it was overwhelmed, and by 14:30 the ARBiH forces entered Vozuća. On the morning of the 11th of September, only 630 out of 1.176 fighters of the 4th Ozren Brigade were still standing. In the next 5 days, they held the defensive line at the position of Malčić, to secure the safe retreat of civilians and the remaining army personnel to VRS controlled territory.


The hostilities in the Vozuća area ended with a cease-fire on the 19th of September 1995, on the initiative of the international powers. In the following months, the Dayton Peace Agreement was made, which ended the three-and-a-half-year-long war in Bosnia.