Berserkistan Navigator Serbs in Doboj Threaten
to take UN Police Hostage

‘We’ve listened to the threats. In return,
the message going back (is) ... don’t try
messing with us.’

—Lt. Col. Max Marriner, IFOR Spokesman

MAP: Doboj SARAJEVO, July 16 (From wire service reports) - Separatist Serb authorities in the northern Bosnian town of Doboj have threatened to take U.N. police officers hostage if Western forces try to arrest Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, the U.N. said on Tuesday.

The warning followed threats by the police chief in the Serb capital Pale to harm U.N. police and NATO peace troops should the West attempt to grab Serb leaders wanted by the U.N. war crimes tribunal on former Yugoslavia.

Alex Ivanko, spokesman for the International Police Task Force in postwar Bosnia, said the IPTF was worried by proliferating Serb threats as pressure grows to nab Karadzic to prevent him undermining free elections scheduled for September. "IPTF in Doboj has been (informed) that if an operation is mounted to arrest Karadzic, IPTF personnel will be taken hostage in the area," Ivanko told a news conference in the Bosnian government capital Sarajevo.

NATO and a U.S. envoy had a message Tuesday for Bosnian Serbs threatening to seize foreign hostages to protect their leader from arrest -- don’t even think about it. U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke, a key architect of Bosnia’s peace plan, issued his warning after arriving on a mission to sideline Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leader charged with war crimes by the Yugolslav tribunal. If Serbs take any action against international forces, Holbrooke said "they’ll be met with swift military action."

To prevent the NATO-led peace force from arresting Karadzic, Bosnian Serbs have threatened to take U.N. hostages -- a tactic they have used before. Serbs detained hundreds of U.N. peacekeepers during the 3˝-year Bosnian war in an attempt to ward off NATO airstrikes.

Lt. Col. Max Marriner, a spokesman for the 50,000-strong NATO force in Bosnia, also warned against any such move. "We’ve listened to the threats. In return, the message going back (is) ... don’t try messing with" either the U.N. police or the NATO-led Bosnian peace force, he said. Marriner refused to say how NATO would retaliate.

The threat was reportedly broadcast by local radio, a familiar tactic of Serb authorities to whip up mobs against an unwanted Western presence or Muslim refugees trying to revisit former homes on Serb terrain. Ivanko said Dragan Kijac, the interior minister in the half of Bosnia controlled by breakaway Serbs, had written to the IPTF promising to do whatever was needed to protect its officers.

"We hope, therefore, that it (the Doboj threat) is only a local initiative," Ivanko said. "But we are worried about this in light of recent incidents...reports of which are landing on my table on a daily basis." He mentioned in particular a bomb that destroyed a parked IPTF vehicle and shattered 30 windows in the IPTF office in the eastern Serb town of Vlasenica on Friday. No one was hurt.

Western security sources who asked not to be named said Kijac's promise of security was scarcely credible, but that IPTF could rely on NATO's 53,000-strong peace Implementation Force (IFOR) for protection from trouble. An IFOR spokesmen said international personnel in Bosnia would not be intimidated, unlike the 1992-95 U.N. humanitarian force which was constantly harrased and obstructed by angry civilians from all three ethnic groups.

The spokesman said IFOR had stepped up patrols near the known, heavily-guarded lairs of Karadzic and Serb army chief General Ratko Mladic, another war crimes indictee, and "this is clearly unnerving a lot of the bad boys out there. "We take all threats seriously. The message going back down the line would be, "Don't try messing with IPTF or IFOR. We've got a very strong mandate'. I would suggest (threats) cease."

France is seeking a U.N. Security Council decision expressly authorising NATO troops to hunt down Karadzic and other indictees. At the moment, NATO has said it would only swoop if it encounters suspects during routine patrols.

To learn more...
Berserkistan, July 16 · Holbrooke in Bosnia to Seek Karadzic’s Removal
Berserkistan, July 16 · Holbrooke Says Serbia to Blame for Dayton Failure
Berserkistan, July 15 · Bosnian Serbs Threaten NATO in Showdown Over War Criminals
Berserkistan, July 13 · US Embassy Worker Wounded by Gunmen
Berserkistan, July 13 · Car Bomb Destroys UN Vehicle in Vlasenica

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