Calm restored in Bosnia and Herzegovina after mob violence at mosques: UN

Calm restored in Bosnia and Herzegovina after mob violence at mosques: UN

Calm has been restored in Bosnia and Herzegovina following two recent incidents of mob violence by Bosnian Serbs during ceremonies intended to mark the imminent reconstruction of mosques in the country, the United Nations reported today.

This morning in Banja Luka, Bosnian Serbs violently interrupted a ceremony to break ground for the reconstruction of a sixteenth century mosque. Hundreds of hard-liners crashed through a police cordon and surrounded the city's Islamic community centre, where more than 200 individuals had sought shelter from the mob, according to the UN Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIBH).

Among those in the centre were members of the Islamic community, local officials, diplomats and representatives of international organizations, including the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Jacques Klein.

A UN spokesman later reported that all those who had taken refuge were escorted out by Republika Srpska police, and that the situation had been brought under control.

Reacting to the incident, Mr. Klein said he was "disappointed and angered" by the violence, while UNMIBH reported "significant" damage resulting from the rampage. Several buses and private vehicles were set on fire, windows in the Islamic community centre were broken and a nearby bakery was destroyed. At least eight people were taken to the Banja Luka hospital for medical treatment.

UNMIBH stressed that those responsible must be held accountable and demanded that the Republika Srpska police do everything possible to ensure that the perpetrators were identified and charged.

On Saturday, the Mission also condemned mob violence by Bosnian Serbs in the town of Trebinja, where disturbances prevented officials from holding a ceremony at the Osman Pasha Mosque, which is also slated for reconstruction.

According to UNMIBH, a group of demonstrators assaulted several individuals, including local journalists and members of the international community. Carrying nationalist flags, the demonstrators chanted provocative slogans and damaged equipment intended for the ceremony.

Noting that "it is apparent" that the police in Trebinja did not take adequate measures soon enough, the UN Mission said it had already started an investigation into the performance of the local law enforcement officers. UNMIBH called on the police to identify those responsible as soon as possible, stressing that the UN would "not tolerate this behaviour going unpunished."