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BosNet Dec. 27, 1995

From: Dzevat Omeragic <dzevat@EE.MCGILL.CA>

Bosnia-Herzegovina News Directory


  • [01] Bishop Komarica released by Serbs


  • [03] IFOR set out to make its presence felt early.














  • [17] BISHOP FREED.


  • [01] Bishop Komarica released by Serbs

    ZAGREB -- The Catholic Information agency reported Friday that Franjo Komarica, the Roman Catholic Bishop of the hard-line Bosnian Serb bastion Banja Luka, has been released from seven months of house arrest. The defiant leader of the Catholic Croat community in northern Bosnia preached ethnic tolerance in harsh times.

    He had to witness his flock's tragic fate -- almost all of them forced to leave the area by Serb ``ethnic cleansing'' over 3 1/2 years of war.

    An estimated half million Catholic Croats and Bosnian Muslims have been kicked out of their homes in northern Bosnia by the nationalist Serbs, adherents of Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Bishop Komarica was ``free to leave his bishop's residency'' on Wednesday after 231 days of confinment, the Zagreb-based agency said.

    He had refused to leave Banja Luka during the worst days of ethnic terror, and was put under house arrest by police there ``for his own safety'' in May this year.

    The latest round of mass-scale anti-Croat violence in northern Bosnia -- including church-bombings, murders of priests and nuns, arson, beatings and forcible evictions -- followed a successful Croatian army offensive in Western Slavonia early this summer.

    The successful Croat and Bosnian government assault on Serb-held areas in Bosnia that followed the NATO bombing campaign at the end of the summer threatened to take Banja Luka itself, and ironically the Serbs from that area were to first to embrace a Bosnia peace plan signed last week in Paris.

    The change of heart was such that they also welcomed with brandy and open arms NATO troops into their area Wednesday, the first foreign forces to enter a prohibited area dubbed ``The Land of Darkness'' by the United Nations.

    On his first day of freedom Komarica visited the remnants of a bombed-out monastery near Banja Luka and the graves of three priests and a nun killed in May.

    ``The time of destruction and expulsion is over, thank God. We are looking ahead at the time of return and rebuilding. God bless the coming times!'' he was quoted as saying after returning from his first pastoral visit.

    Komarica often raised his voice against ethnic intolerance and had angered even the Zagreb government and the Croat nationalist factions in Herzegovina, whom he accused of ignoring the plight of Catholic Croats living outside the parts of Bosnia controlled by Croat nationalist forces.



    In a short, fog-delayed ceremony at Sarajevo airport last Wednesday, NATO commander Leighton Smith formally took over military operations in Bosnia from the much-criticized UN Protection Force (UNPROFOR). Smith noted that "IFOR" will be markedly different than its predecessor.

    [03] IFOR set out to make its presence felt early.

    Just hours after the ceremony, U.S. Gen. William Nash drove from Tuzla through Serb-held territory to the Croatian border -- the first time anyone had used the road since the war began. "Today we chose to exercise our freedom-of-movement option," explained Brig. Gen. Patrick O'Neal. A Danish platoon had cleared the road of mines.

    On IFOR's first day, French troops demolished several checkpoints, including the notorious "Sierra Four" Serb roadblock between the airport and downtown Sarajevo. In 1993, Serb soldiers pulled Bosnian Deputy Prime Minister Hakija Turaljic from a UN armored vehicle there and shot him to death while French peacekeepers looked on.

    "`No More Sierra' was the exuberant headline on the front page of Sarajevo's Vecernje Novine newspaper," Associated Press reports. NATO has also removed roadblocks on the road from Sarajevo to Kiseljak, about 20 miles west.

    By Monday, IFOR formally opened the 50-mile route between Tuzla and Orasje, near the Croatian border, which crosses the bitterly contested Serb-held Posavina corridor. "This also means that Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, and Tuzla are now 4 hours apart by car, instead of a tortuous 14," according to the N.Y. Times.

    BBC reports that U.S. soldiers set up a checkpoint in the corridor -- the only territorial issue left undecided in the Dayton accords (it is to be sent to arbitration). An IFOR spokesman told the BBC that there has been traffic along the road and "no problems at all."

    Bosnian and Serb nationalist forces were also reported to be pulling back from front lines around Sarajevo, with French troops moving in to separate the two sides.

    Each army is to vacate about 20 positions around the city by midnight tonight. So far, NATO officers involved in the withdrawals report operations are "going very well," BBC reported early this morning.

    Serb public opinion is reportedly divided on the IFOR deployment, BBC reports, with some welcoming the troops as a sign of peace. Others, still angered by NATO airstrikes this summer, consider the soldiers an occupation force.

    "We have to admit that the enemy is stronger than us. NATO is coming here," one Serb officer told Reuters. "If we start a fight now we would lose what we have left."

    British soldiers told Reuters they have been warmly welcomed when deploying on Serb-occupied territory. "They are pleased to see us and they seem glad the war is over," said Corp. Glen Grundy of the Light Dragoons. Just a few months ago, Serbs were holding UN soldiers hostage and using them as human shields.

    A meeting was tentatively scheduled for today (Wednesday) in Croat-held Medugorje to discuss deploying troops in the southern part of the republic, Reuters said. Spanish troops may be sent to the region.


    A U.S. cargo plane and several British helicopters have been fired at, NATO officials say, but military and humanitarian airlifts are continuing. "I decided we simply couldn't allow one guy in a field to have a veto over our operations," Admiral Smith said.

    In one case, several rounds were fired at a helicopter transporting two sick babies for emergency medical treatment.


    For the first time since the Bosnian war began, international troops arrived in Serb-held Banja Luka as British troops deployed there this week.

    The Banja Luka region was the site of some of Bosnia's worst "ethnic cleansing," with almost half a million non-Serbs killed, imprisoned, or expelled. Human-rights workers were barred from the area while its Muslims and Croats were murdered and driven out; and Serb troops then blocked aid shipments to refugee-swolen Bosnian enclaves under siege.

    Now, though, the Serbs are seeking help for a quarter of a million Serb refugees who fled fighting elsewhere in Bosnia or neighboring Croatia.

    Some Bosnians expelled by Serb nationalists say there can't be peace until they can return to their homes. Many are still close enough to see their houses and apartments, now occupied by others. The Dayton accords call for all refugees to have the right to return to their homes or be compensated.


    Only about 6% of the 20,000 U.S. troops slated to head to Bosnia have arrived, as American forces continue to deal with logistical problems on the ground. The latest problem: Unexpected spring-like weather is causing the Sava River to rise. And, it may begin flooding a nearby U.S. encampment in Zupanja, Croatia, just as work begins on a temporary bridge for U.S. ground troops and armor to cross into Bosnia.

    "The good news today was that Swedish troops were on hand to carry out peace-enforcement duties for absent Americans, such as separating the rival factions, clearing out land mines and securing roads," the N.Y. Times reported Tuesday. A unit of the 1st Cavalry Regiment crossed into Bosnia by barge.

    Other U.S. troops from Tuzla arrived to separate Croat and Serb forces around the Orasje pocket in the north.


    NATO commander Leighton Smith met Bosnian Serb leaders yesterday to discuss implementing the Dayton accords. Momcilo Krajisnik, speaker of the Serbs' self-declared parliament, called for a delay until September in the scheduled return of several Serb-occupied Sarajevo territories to the Bosnian government. That transfer would reunite the city and end the Serb siege.

    "I told him that I was not in a position today to make such an extension,'' Admiral Smith told reporters later, according to Reuters. "I told Krajisnik we will take into account all aspects of the (Dayton) agreement and we would hopefully render a decision acceptable to all. Other than that no guarantees were made." Smith described the meeting as "cordial," and has praised all sides for cooperating with the NATO deployment.

    Meanwhile, Sarajevo's mayor protested a contract signed between NATO's Rapid Reaction Corps and Serb officials in Ilidza, one district which is to revert to Bosnian federation control, for office space. Mayor Tarik Kuposovic said IFOR should be dealing "exclusively with legal and legitimate authorities" in the city.


    There were conflicting reports about Serb civilians leaving Sarajevo this week, with some saying the pace of departure was picking up, and others saying Serb militia were again trying to force people to stay.

    "They are being prevented from leaving by the authorities who want to use them to pressure the international community," an aid official told Reuters. "They (the local Bosnian Serb leadership) have not given up hope yet of reversing or delaying Dayton but they need a population to help them make their case."

    Some Serbs sought help in digging up and transporting their dead in preparation to flee Bosnian government rule. One Western diplomat accused the Serbs of "political necrophilia."

    "These actions illustrate the complete lack of willingness of those people to live side by side with their neighbors," Kris Janowski, spokesman for the UN's refugee agency, told AP. "We cannot assist in the transportation of bodies.... We care for refugees and the living." The Bosnian government has said that all Serbs but war criminals are welcome to stay in the city and will be guaranteed safety and equal rights. However, many Serbs fear Bosnian-government rule after years of war and heavy propaganda.

    Serb authorities reportedly suspended permission to dig up bodies for a few days while Serb officials sought a delay in the territorial handover.

    Some Serbs in these "ethnically cleansed" Sarajevo suburbs say Muslims will desecrate the graves if the city changes hands. It is an odd accusation, considering that while Serbs destroyed all the mosques on their side, the Serb Orthodox churches continued to operate without interference in Bosnian-controlled Sarajevo, Tuzla, and elsewhere.


    Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic and commanding Gen. Ratko Mladic were reportedly absent from the meeting with Adm. Smith, since both have been indicted for genocide by an international war-crimes tribunal. NATO officials say that while they will not hunt for war criminals in Bosnia, they will detain them if seen.

    National Public Radio (U.S.) said that Mladic did not attend a meeting of military commanders at Sarajevo airport, because he would have been arrested had he shown up. Mladic was holed up in a bunker, drinking heavily and brooding about his military setbacks, NPR claimed.

    But the Washington Post reports that Russian Maj.-Gen. Nikolai Staskov met with Mladic last week. A NATO spokesman said IFOR did not know about the meeting before it happened, and the Russians have not yet been integrated into IFOR command. Russia has supported Serbs in Bosnia throughout the war.


    The Bosnian government released 131 prisoners and Serb nationalists handed over 114 captives Sunday, in the first prisoner exchange since the Dayton accords. A smaller exchange of 14 on each side took place at Sanski Most, but another scheduled release between Serbs and Croats was abruptly called off, according to the Boston Globe.

    Several of the Bosnians freed by Serb forces said they survived massacres in Srebrenica by hiding among hundreds of corpses and feigning death -- only to be captured later when trying to flee to government-held territory.

    "We were forced to carry dead bodies and those who were wounded to a hole. We threw them in," Behudin Muminovic, 28, told AP. "Mainly they were children between 14 and 17." More than 5,000 people are missing from Srebrenica -- a "UN-protected safe area" overrun by Serb forces this summer; most were massacred and buried in mass graves.

    "It was a very stupid war and it cost the lives of many young people," Dragan Sabljic, a Serb private freed on Sunday, told Reuters. "I don't know why it went on for four years. We just had to go where they told us."


    The UN Thursday authorized sending up to 1,700 civilian police to Bosnia to help implement the Dayton peace agreement. The force will be stationed largely in the Serb-occupied Sarajevo suburbs that are supposed to change hands under the accord.

    Separately, the UN condemned Bosnian Serbs for mass murders and other crimes, and demanded international access to mass-grave sites, refugees, and prisoners. Croatian forces in Bosnia were also criticized for looting and burning two Bosnian towns to be turned over to Serb control.


    U.S. Ambassador Madeleine Albright blasted a letter from Yugoslavia's representative to the UN as "Orwellian propaganda" that is "propagating the big lie."

    In the letter, Vladislav Jovanovic claims that fighting within Bosnian Army units in Srebrenica caused thousands of deaths in the enclave -- not Serb troops who overran the "safe area" last July. This despite testimony from several Srebrenica survivors who witnessed Serbs gun down hundreds of unarmed men at a time, as well as UN peacekeepers who saw Serbs lead away Muslim men and then heard shots. In addition, US spy-satellite pictures showed thousands of men being held prisoner after Serbs captured the enclave, followed a few days later by no sign of the men except the "disturbed earth" of mass graves.

    Nevertheless, Jovanovic -- in attempting to halt a UN vote blaming Serbs for the massacres -- claimed that Bosnian army units killed thousands of fellow soldiers who wanted to surrender.

    The Security Council voted unanimously to tell Jovanovic that his letter was "unacceptable."

    "It goes beyond my understanding to figure out what he thought he would gain for his country by sending such a preposterous letter that has basically insulted the intelligence of the Security Council," Albright told reporters after the vote.


    Career U.S. diplomat Robert Frowick has been named to oversee civilian peace efforts in Bosnia such as supervising elections and human rights. Frowick was appointed by the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)


    "The state of war officially has been canceled in Bosnia, and for the first time in four years, Christmas comes during a season of peace," CNN's Christiane Amanpour reported. "Sarajevo has suffered too much to show unbounded joy now. The city is still scarred....But life is better now -- it's a start."

    "You can tell it's really peace now because people are on the street at night and there is no fear," Amela, 24, told Reuters as she enjoyed the temporary lifting of a wartime curfew with her boyfriend.

    "I hope the war is over. I still can't understand how it began," a Croatian woman in divided Mostar told Reuters. "I went to school with Muslims, we visited each other and now I haven't been across town the for years."


    Electricity has returned in parts of Sarajevo, residents report, although it remains tightly rationed. It is unclear whether the power is coming because a main line into the city, knocked out in a blizzard, has been repaired; or if a planned new underground cable into the city is now operational.


    Two French pilots held for 104 days by Bosnian Serb nationalists were beaten unconscious, starved, and terrorized with mock executions, according to Le Canard Enchaine, a French weekly. Gen. Mladic "told each one that if he did not answer interrogators' questions he would have to watch while the other was tortured and killed," according to a Reuters report of Le Canard Enchaine's story. The publication claims that after the pilots were debriefed, they were ordered not to discuss their ordeal.

    [17] BISHOP FREED.

    Serb nationalists have released Franjo Komarica, the Croat Roman Catholic bishop in Banja Luka, from 231 days of house arrest. "He was detained as Serbs worked to expel Croats and Muslims from Serb-held regions," AP reports. UN officials say "ethnic cleansing" there is now virtually complete.


    $500 million was pledged for an initial rebuilding program at a two-day conference in Brussels. Also this week, Bosnia was granted membership in the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

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