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Quiet, Calm Prevail in Mostar as Police from Across Europe Patrol Streets
Mostar Barriers to Free Movement in Divided
City Came Down, but Not Easily

(MOSTAR, FEB 21)—Calm seemed to be the order of the day after a quiet night in Mostar. The Herzegovinan mountain town had begun Day 2 of its post-war era. Joint police units were patrolling the city's streets just like the mediators had planned in Dayton and Rome.

The only major reservation came from Bosnia's president Alija Izetbegovic who was unhappy with the first day of reunification. "I'm not satisfied," he told state radio. "The process starts but very slowly. It is not known yet if it will continue or stop. It seems that the resistance on the Croat side is big."

And the Croat side is a major player here, with some 100 police officers in place and a lot of Herzegovinan high rollers, the kind that bankroll Croatia's president Tudjman. The patrols also include policemen from the Muslim and Croat sides of the city, Sarajevo, and officers of the Western European Union police force. With this many police, what can go wrong? Nothing today, it seems, but yesterday was another story.

Bosnian Croat police and volunteer officers from neighboring Croatia turned up three hours late. The checkpoints were supposed to be removed at noon, but Croat police armed with rifles stopped many Muslims from crossing on the grounds they were not carrying correct ID cards.

"There were a few shooting incidents but that's normal for Mostar. No damage, no casualties. It may have been because of Bajram and Carnival (Muslim and Catholic festivals)," said European Union spokesman Howard Fox.

A Car Crash, Fired Shots and Some Rough Stuff
A car carrying three young Muslims crossed a Croat checkpoint before being blocked by two Croat cars about 100 yards farther along the road. The youths' car hit a tree and they ran back across the line dividing Muslim and Croat areas of the city, but not before one tripped and was beaten before making his escape. One of the Croats chasing the youths fired two shots in the air.

Until then a few dozen Muslims and a handful of Croats had passed through a Croat checkpoint but many Muslims had been turned back by the Croat police.

Mostar in its glory A crowd of Muslims had gathered at the checkpoint in driving rain but a Croat policemen on duty said only those with identity cards could pass. The police had also stopped several Muslim vehicles from passing, saying they had no instructions to let cars through. Other Croat policemen stood by, clutching guns.

Before the shooting incident, a Croat man shouted insults to the Muslims in the crowd waiting to cross. Another man wearing a Hitler mask, jack boots and a swastika armband paced around on the Croat side of the barrrier yelling: "Fascism is good." He told reporters he was dressed for carnival and did not mean to scare anyone.

At mid-afternoon, after frantic efforts by the European Union administrator of Mostar, Hans Koschnick, Croatian police officers agreed to join the joint patrols. "After 18 months this is an important step. Now we have a police who will enforce security, which will not be divided on an ethnicity basis but according to training," European Union administrator Hans Koschnick told a news conference.

The seven-member joint police units, due to patrol only Mostar's central district at first, are to include a policeman from Croatia and Sarajevo, one from East and West Mostar, two from the WEU and an interpreter.

On February 19, the unveiling of a separation plan designed by European Union adminstrator Hans Koschnik threw the town into riots and chaos. The plan divides Mostar into six municipalities with a Croat majority in three municipalities and a Muslim majority in the other three. Croats claim the plan unfairly favors Muslims. Under the plan, Mostar will also have a central zone. The city authorities will control the railway station, the airport, three hydrolectric plants and three water sources. A Muslim-Croat federation that will control half of Bosnia is considered a cornerstone of the peace accord, but Mostar has never overcome the simering hatred stemming from brutal Muslim-Croat fighting there in 1993. U.S. State Department Spokesman Glenn Davis said Washington urges all sides to peacefully implement Koscnik's plan without delay.

MostarTHE RIOT...
French NATO forces rushed to protect the European Union mission after 2,000 Croat protesters gathered in front of the building and swarmed over an armored car carrying administrator Koschnik. Ten bullet holes were found in the vehicle following the riot. Protesters surrounded the Hotel Ero where the European Union administration is based, smashed two of its cars and occupied the offices.

An angry crowd of several hundred Bosnian Croats who claimed that the unification plan favored the Muslims, jumped and rocked the car carrying Koschnick for over an hour as police officers watched impassively. Koschnick was uninjured. EU spokesman Dragan Gasic said some protesters were yelling "(Koschnik) should be killed. He should hang." Others cried "Za dom spremni" ("We are ready for the homeland,") the salute of the fascists who ran Croatia's Nazi-backed World War II government. Koschnick was not injured in the riots, and managed to get away after a Croat leader intervened.

The protests drew strong condemnation by NATO and European governments, but they did not prevent Croatian officials from breaking off thies with the EU which has been struggling to divide the city.

Some diplomats, however, say the real reason for the demonstration had more to do with the turf of local gangsters than any legitimate complaint against the arbitrator. "Croat Mostar is a criminal enterprise apparently beyond the control of any government official," said a Western diplomat who asked not to be identified. "The issue is who runs which checkpoint on which road. Ethnic politics is just the plausible face of that criminal activity."

Additional resources
For Peace in Mostar, Follow the Money Trail to Croatia
Mostar, A Tale of Two Cities by Berserkistan's Jim Bartlett
Mostar: Before and After its Devastation A site by Dubravko Kakarigi
Benvenuti in Guerra Gavino Paddeu chronicles Mostar's fall
Volunteers Needed for Mostar Peace Project Mladi Most, the Youth Center in Mostar

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