Muslim Offensive, July–August, 1993
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.1 The HVO outposts south of Novi Travnik fell in late June and early July: Ravno Rostovo on June 24 and Rat and Sebesic in July. Between July 19 and 23, the ABiH attacked the HVO forces in and around Bugojno, seized control of the town, and killed or captured most of the fifteen-hundred-man HVO Eugen Kvaternik Brigade, which was defending the town. The prisoners from the Kvaternik Brigade, as well as the Croat civilians in the Bugojno area were subjected to horrible mistreatment at the hands of the victorious ABiH troops.
Although the major ABiH assault was launched in April, the struggle for the key Vitez-Busovaca area continued with varying degrees of intensity right up to the signing of the Washington agreements in March, 1994. The fighting was nearly continuous and was marked by large ABiH attacks almost every month. Sniping and artillery/mortar exchanges were routine, and the Croat enclave within the Lasva Valley continued to be the locus of heavy fighting. Although the HVO was able to prevent a major ABiH victory, the cumulative effect of casualties, the exhaustion of HVO personnel, the consumption of supplies and equipment without replacement, and the gradual loss of ground significantly reduced the HVO’s capacity to resist as time went on.
In May, 1993, the ABiH succeeded in taking the Gradina heights between the villages of Loncari and Putis, and most of the critical Kuber and Kula positions fell to the ABiH in June. In July, the 17th Krajina Mountain Brigade launched yet another unsuccessful attack on Vitez. At a press conference on August 3, HVO military and civilian authorities addressed the serious situation facing the Croat community in central Bosnia, noting the continuing Muslim propaganda campaign that accompanied the shelling of Croat population centers and assaults on HVO positions.2 In mid-August an