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Tuesday, 18 July, 2000, 19:48 GMT 20:48 UK
Mujahideen fight Bosnia evictions

By Alix Kroeger in Sarajevo

About 80 people in central Bosnia are manning road blocks around a village where evictions from illegally occupied properties were reported to be imminent.

The villages are largely occupied by Mujahideen, ex-soldiers from Islamic countries, who came over to fight for the Muslim dominated Bosnian army during the war.

Many of them have settled in villages around the municipality of Maglai, and are now living illegally in Serb-owned houses.

The evictions are part of a renewed effort to free up properties for the return of their rightful owners.

The roadblocks went up on Monday afternoon following media reports that the evictions would start on Tuesday morning.

Although these reports are incorrect - evictions are not due to begin until next week - 40-50 people, mainly women and children, blocked two roads into the village of Bochinja near Maglai.

After two hours of negotiations, the road blocks were lifted, but by Monday evening they were back in place, manned by greater numbers.

Open secret

The local assembly met in emergency session on Monday night, but the United Nations mission to Bosnia said both the minister of the interior for the municipality and his deputy were absent and out of contact.

Bosnian army
The Mujahideen fought for the pro-muslim Bosnian army

The presence of the Mujahideen, who come mainly from Afghanistan and Pakistan, is something of an open secret in Bosnia.

They are not supposed to be there, but they are.

Under the Dayton Peace Accord all foreign fighters except the stabilisation force S-For were supposed to leave by January 1996.

Instead many of the Islamic fighters have stayed, settling in villages in central Bosnia and starting families.

Renewed effort

Most live illegally in houses vacated by local Serbs fleeing fighting which swept through the area during the war from 1992 to 1995.

Now the international community is making a renewed effort to implement the property laws, with the evictions of illegal occupants to make way for the rightful owners to return.

There are still over a million displaced people in Bosnia many of them are unable to return home, because someone else, often a displaced person themselves, is living in their house.

The UN described the situation as a coordinated attempt to prevent illegally occupied property being returned to its rightful owners.

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