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The BBC's Fiona Werge
"Muslim, Croat and Serb communities still live uneasily side by side"
 real 56k

Saturday, 7 April, 2001, 18:10 GMT 19:10 UK
S-For role in Bosnia riots attacked
Bosnian Croats give the nationalist salute in Grude after protestors clashed with peacekeepers
Bosnian Croats give the nationalist salute in Grude
By Alix Kroeger in Mostar

International officials working in Bosnia- Hercegovina have strongly criticised the Nato-led stabilisation force, S-For, saying it put the lives of staff at risk in Friday's raids on a chain of banks.

In the southern city of Mostar staff were trapped in their offices by a crowd of Bosnian Croat nationalist demonstrators, while in the town of Grude one man was threatened with summary execution.

S-For is now reviewing its operation, in which 22 people were injured.

The bank is believed to have been channelling funds to Croat separatists who want to establish their own mini-state within Bosnia.


International officials admit privately that the operation to raid banks linked to Croat nationalists was a disaster.

Map showing towns
A few hours after the operation began, simultaneous demonstrations took place outside branches of Hercegovacka Banka around the country.

In Mostar the crowd burned four cars and fired shots at S-For helicopter patrols.

In Grude investigators were trapped in the bank branch and one man was threatened with summary execution.

Now officials from the international community in Mostar - speaking on condition of anonymity - say they are appalled at what they describe as the wholsesale failure of S-For to provide security.

They say the lives of staff were put at risk and the credibility of the international community has been destroyed.

Staff from the United Nations and the office of the High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch, the international community's chief mediator in Bosnia, had to be moved to safety.

Civilian searched in Mostar
Peacekeepers in Mostar searched civilians on the streets
Speaking at a news conference on Saturday, Mr Petritsch warned Croat separatists that he will not submit to what he described as "mob rule".

One official described the operation as the biggest crisis in Mostar since 1994, when the Washington agreement ended the war between Bosnia's Croats and Muslims.

S-For has defended its operations and rejected accusation that any lives were put at risk.

An S-For spokesman said responsibility for the violence should lie with the antagonists who provoked Friday's demonstrations.

Uneasy neighbours

Bosnia's Muslim, Croat and Serb communities have lived uneasily side-by-side since three-and-a-half years of war ended in 1995.

Last month, the HDZ withdrew from the Muslim-Croat federation - one of the two entities that make up post-war Bosnia.

An HDZ call on Bosnian Croat soldiers to desert the federation's army has been widely heeded and nationalists claim that about 8,000 Croat soldiers have abandoned their barracks.

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See also:

28 Mar 01 | Europe
Bosnian Croats desert en masse
19 Mar 01 | Europe
Bosnian Croats postpone self-rule
07 Mar 01 | Europe
Bosnian Croat president fired
21 Nov 00 | Europe
Dayton five years on
05 Apr 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Bosnia-Hercegovina
06 Apr 01 | Europe
Bosnia bank seizure sparks riots
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