UN condemns continued violence at religious sites in Bosnia and Herzegovina

UN condemns continued violence at religious sites in Bosnia and Herzegovina

United Nations officials have condemned a recent spate of attacks against religious sites in Bosnia and Herzegovina, while police in the area have made arrests, a UN spokesman reported today.

In the latest incident, two Bosnian Muslim men were apprehended on Monday evening after a hand grenade was thrown at a Serb Orthodox Church in the Federation-controlled town of Sanski Most. One of them made a confession, spokesman Fred Eckhard told reporters in New York.

The grenade attack was the third violent incident at a religious institution in recent days. It came on the heels of a mob rampage by Bosnian Serbs earlier yesterday at a sixteenth-century mosque in Banja Luka that was slated for reconstruction. Hundreds of hard-liners broke through a police cordon and surrounded the city's Islamic community centre, where more than 200 individuals had sought shelter from the mob before being escorted out by local police.

According to Mr. Eckhard, UN officials met today with Republika Srpska authorities in Banja Luka and with local court officials in Trebinje, where Bosnian Serbs demonstrated violently on Saturday at another mosque that is to be reconstructed. The UN expects that criminal charges will be filed later today against participants in Saturday's violence, he said.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today expressed outrage over Monday's violence in Banja Luka. "International and local officials see the reconstruction of mosques as a powerful symbol of ethnic reconciliation in Republika Srpska," spokesman Kris Janowski said, noting that the area had suffered some of the most brutal "ethnic cleansing" in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the war. "The violent demonstration yesterday dealt a blow to the effort to reconcile Bosnia's former foes," he added.