Berserkistan Navigator Bosnian Croat Leader
Accuses Government
of Fostering Violence

Kresimir Zubak accuses Muslim authorities of
orchestrating the firebombing of the last
remaining Roman-Catholic church in the central
Bosnian town of Bugojno on Thursday.

MAP: Bugojno ZAGREB, July 27 (Reuters) - A Bosnian Croat leader on Saturday accused the Muslim-led Bosnian government of fostering ethnic violence while at the same time showing "a democratic face to the world."

The president of the Muslim-Croat Federation, Kresimir Zubak, accused the Muslim authorities of "orchestrating" the firebombing of the last remaining Roman-Catholic church in the Muslim-held central Bosnian town of Bugojno on Thursday.

"(This crime) was again orchestrated by the authorities who show a democratic face to the world and allegedly want a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society," Zubak said in a statement carried by the Croatian news agency Hina. "In fact (the Muslim authorities) are a most perfidious and cunning way inspiring evictions and sackings, desecration of sacred sites and murder of the sick and elderly," he said.

Shortly before the Catholic church was damaged in Bugojno, arsonists set fire to a mosque in the Croat-held town of Prozor. In 1993 separatist minority Croats and Muslim-led government forces waged a year-long war before U.S. pressure pushed them into a loose federation. But the alliance remains deeply split between the Croat-held west and Muslim-controlled centre of Bosnia. Serbs hold east and north Bosnia.

Recent attacks on places of worship and a political stalemate in the divided city of Mostar threatened to further increase tensions between the two communities. Zubak's angry comments came only a day after Bosnia's President Alija Izetbegovic warned the country was facing great difficulties.

"There is a crisis, and we are only waiting for a war to break out down there (around Mostar)," Croatian papers quoted Izetbegovic as saying in a speech to Bosnia's war veterans in Sarajevo on Friday.

U.N. police monitors said a bomb damaged the St Anthony Church used by Roman Catholic Croats in the Muslim-controlled town of Bugojno in central Bosnia on Thursday night. One person was reportedly injured outside the building. The blast also shattered windows in a nearby office of the Catholic relief agency Caritas, said spokesman Alex Ivanko of the International Police Task Force which monitors law enforcement and human-rights abuses in postwar Bosnia.

State radio in neighbouring Croatia, which is patron of the Bosnian Croats, said attackers placed the explosive in the church tower. It claimed local Muslim police sealed off the entire town and access to the church afterwards. Croatian radio said St Anthony's was the last Catholic church intact in Bugojno, following arson attacks on four others, and added that 13 Roman Catholic cemeteries had also been desecrated.

Ivanko said early on Thursday, a "suspicious" fire damaged a mosque in the Croat-controlled western town of Prozor. "A female witness saw a man in camouflage uniform with three others entering the mosque several times prior to the incident," he told Reuterss.

Bosnia's 1992-95 war was characterised by mass expulsions of rival communities followed by the destruction of hundreds of religious and cultural centres to "wipe out history." The scourge was most acute in Serb-held territory where virtually every mosque was levelled, some replaced with parking lots, as Muslim inhabitants were driven out. Mosques were frequently targeted in Croat-held western Bosnia.

Sectarian attacks have been least common in areas controlled by Bosnia's Muslim-led central government but Islamic militancy has risen in reaction to Serb and Croat atrocities against Muslims during the war.

"The worrying thing is that such attacks are starting up again," said a U.N. official who asked not to be named.

Separatist minority Croats and Muslim-led government forces waged war before U.S. pressure pushed them into a loose federation. But it remains split into a Croat-held west and Muslim-controlled centre. Serbs hold east and north Bosnia.

Some analysts said the new, religion-tinged violence might be calculated to scare off refugees returning to their homes under pilot projects. About 200 Croat families were to be resettled in Bugojno and an undetermined number of Muslims in Prozor by August 15, said John Fawcett of the Soros Foundation-backed International Crisis Group, which monitors aspects of Dayton.

"Fifty-one Croat families have already returned to Bugojno in the past two weeks, signalling some movement and the UNHCR was encouraged. Now local authorities or local thugs may be trying to stop the momentum," said Fawcett. "There's hardly any better way to do it than by bombing churches or mosques."


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