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Croatian gunners destroyed the renowned Old Bridge in the Bosnian city of Mostar today, sending one of the most graceful examples of Ottoman architecture crashing into the Neretva River. The four-century-old arch, described by a Muslim poet as "a crescent moon in stone," was one of the most formidable metaphors for the common life that the Muslims, Croats and Serbs of the old Yugoslavia enjoyed before the country's violent breakup into separate nation-states began in mid Veso Vegar, a spokesman for the Bosnian Croats' militia, admitted today that the militia's gunners had targeted the bridge, whose foundations were laid in at the orders of the Ottoman Empire's greatest ruler, Suleiman the Magnificent.
Vegar said, adding that Croats fired 10 shells at the span on Monday alone. Bosnian Government radio reported today that 60 shells hit the structure, which opened in and eventually became known as the Old Bridge, or Stari Most. It gave the city its name. The Bosnian Croat leadership has named Mostar, whose population was mixed before the war, capital of the self-declared Croatian republic they have created.
Bosnian Croat troops began evicting Muslim residents from the Neretva's west bank in May, herding adult men into concentration camps and forcing women, children and elderly people across a treacherous battlefront. A Kiss Remembered. For months Muslims on the west bank dodged sniper fire to cross the bridge to the Muslim-controlled east bank, where they could fill plastic containers with drinking water.
The city's mostly Muslim Bosnian Army contingent used it take up their positions on the battle lines on the western side of the river. News of the Mostar bridge's downing plunged many people from all over the former Yugoslav republics into gloom. I remember how we dropped stones into the clear water. Now this has all been wiped out. Stonemasons from the nearby city of Dubrovnik built the foot-wide bridge at the narrowest part of the Neretva River canyon, joining the span's locally quarried limestone blocks with iron braces and pointing the cracks with molten lead.
The bridge's designer, Hayrudin, studied under the greatest of all Ottoman architects, Sinan. The bridge survived a flood that practically covered it in , history books say, and the only time its walkway was closed came during an feud between local families.