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Bosnia's Administrator Issues Post-Riot Warning to Croat Nationalists

April 08, 2001|From Times Wire Services

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — The international administrator in Bosnia-Herzegovina warned Croat separatists Saturday that he will not submit to "mob rule" and rejected dialogue with hard-liners threatening the breakup of this ethnically fragile country.

Wolfgang Petritsch, the international community's high representative, issued the warning after a day of widespread rioting in southwestern Bosnia. Friday's violence erupted after a bank used by the Croatian Democratic Union, or HDZ, to finance its drive for a separate Croat ministate was seized by North Atlantic Treaty Organization troops and U.N. police.

Bosnia-Herzegovina's 1992-95 war created two ministates: a Muslim-Croat Federation and the Republika Srpska, a Bosnian Serb republic. The HDZ last month declared its intention to break its alliance with the country's Muslims and form a third ministate for Bosnian Croats.

The crisis with the hard-line HDZ represents one of the most serious threats to the integrity of the Bosnian state since the 1992-95 war.

Petritsch said Saturday in Sarajevo, the capital, that Bosnian Croat extremists in one southern city took international and local officials hostage and threatened one of them with execution during the riots, which left 21 peacekeepers lightly injured.

"These thugs threatened and beat [Muslim-Croat Federation] officials and my staff at the bank in Mostar yesterday," Petritsch told a news conference.

"One of my staff was hiding in a bathroom with a mob outside trying to break the door down. Her colleague, a federation investigator, was badly injured by flying glass when shots were fired," he said.

He said the situation was worse in the town of Grude, where gunmen had taken several federation and international personnel hostage in the local branch of the bank.

"Forced confessions were extracted from some of the hostages in which they were made to say on camera that they had been forced by the international community to audit these banks," Petritsch said, adding that this was a lie.

"One investigator was taken outside and threatened with execution," he said.

Also on Saturday, NATO peacekeepers moved to secure Bosnian army arsenals to prevent weapons from falling into the hands of Bosnian Croat separatists.

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