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. But Muslim attackers in the Zenica area succeeded in destroying the HVO forces and expelling the Croat population from the town and many of the surrounding villages.
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.
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.
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. The ABiH blockaded the Novi Travnik-Gornji Vakuf (Uskoplje) road, the main supply route to Herzegovina, on Apri114, and at 7:15 on the morning of the fifteenth, Zivko Totic, commander of the HVO Jure Francetic Brigade, was kidnapped near his headquarters in Zenica during a brutal attack that left his four bodyguards and a bystander dead. That afternoon, Lt. Col. Bob Stewart, commander of the British UNPROFOR battalion stationed in the Lasva Valley, travelled to Zenica for a meeting with Muslim, HVO, ECMM, UNHCR, and International Red Cross representatives regarding the Totic kidnapping. The meeting was continued until the next morning, and Lieutenant Colonel Stewart spent the night in Zenica rather than return to his headquarters in Stari Bila. At about 5:30 A.M. on the sixteenth, he was awakened by an urgent telephone call from his second in command, Maj. Bryan Watters, who informed him "all hell was breaking loose in Vitez and the Lasva Valley." Indeed, it was; the main ABiH offensive against the Croat enclaves in the Lasva Valley had begun.