KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 20.00, 8 May 2001

I. BOSNIA: VIOLENT RIOTS AT FUTURE MOSQUE SITES. Thirty
people were injured and buses and police cars damaged by fire in Banja
Luka on 7 May as ethnic Serb rioters disrupted the ceremony to lay the
foundation stone of the city's Ferhadija mosque. The riot followed a similar
attack on 5 May in the city of Trebinje, also in Republika Srpska (RS), the
Serbian entity of Bosnia. Muslim officials believe that the riots were
orchestrated, though a representative of the RS police denied this to Keston
News Service.

II. BOSNIA: WHO WAS BEHIND THE ANTI-MOSQUE RIOTS? While
officials of the Republika Srpska (RS), the Serbian entity of Bosnia, deny in
public that there is any proof that the attacks on the ceremonies to lay the
foundation stones to rebuild two mosques destroyed in the Bosnian war - on
5 May in Trebinje and 7 May in Banja Luka - were pre-planned and linked,
Muslim leaders, international officials and other sources assert that they
were.

I. BOSNIA: VIOLENT RIOTS AT FUTURE MOSQUE SITES

by Branko Bjelajac, Keston News Service

Thirty people were injured and 19 buses and police cars were damaged by
fire in Banja Luka on 7 May as ethnic Serb rioters disrupted the ceremony to
lay the foundation stone of the city's Ferhadija mosque. The riot followed a
similar attack on 5 May in the city of Trebinje - also in Republika Srpska
(RS), the Serbian entity of Bosnia - at the site where the foundation stone of
the future mosque was to be laid. Large groups of Serbian nationalists
appeared at both sites to launch riots which Muslim officials believe were
orchestrated, though a representative of the RS police denied this to Keston
News Service (see separate KNS article). The RS police and ministry of
religion condemned the `offenders' and `deeply regretted' the incidents. The
Banja Luka chief of police and the RS interior minister offered their
resignations. The RS government issued a statement pledging that the
perpetrators would be arrested and prosecuted.

Planned for the beginning of May was the ceremonial launch of several
sacred building projects in Bosnia. Rebuilding or renovation work was due
to begin on two large mosques, in Trebinje and Banja Luka, the Orthodox
cathedral and the synagogue in Mostar, and Catholic churches in several
cities.

When guests and representatives of the Islamic Faith Community (IFC) of
Bosnia and Herzegovina arrived on 5 May at the site of the future Osman-
pasha mosque in Trebinje they were attacked by ethnic Serbian
demonstrators. Local police intervened, but were unable to prevent the
attacks. Several people suffered light injuries including Daniel Ruis, head of
the local office of the United Nations High Representative. Some
demonstrators burned the IFC flag and that others sang songs praising
Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader and indicted war
criminal.

The RS government in its statement of 5 May declared that `it is not
acceptable that the renewal of some religious objects should be politically
misused, and that by this unnecessary tensions are created'.

However, Muslim leader Reis-ul-ulema Efendi Mustafa Ceric was
unimpressed by the response of the RS authorities. `It is obvious this violent
act preventing us expressing our religious freedom was planned, organised
and maliciously implemented,' he declared in a 6 May statement.

`We have identified some of the people responsible for this incident and
some have already been arrested,' Zoran Glusac, head of the information
bureau of the RS Ministry of Interior, told Keston on 8 May by telephone
from Banja Luka. `Please understand that in the interest of the investigation I
cannot tell you any names, but we will take legal measures against them. We
are still working to clarify the whole situation, for we believe it is not as
simple as it looks at first sight. The ministry has formed a team of experts to
discover any eventual mistakes concerning the police side of the incident.'

On 7 May, similar attacks took place in Banja Luka at the ceremony to lay
the foundation stone for the reconstruction of the town's Ferhadija mosque,
eight years to the day after it was dynamited and destroyed. After two years
of foot-dragging, the local authorities approved its rebuilding (see KNS 9
April 2001). When Muslim representatives arrived at the site, several
hundred demonstrators managed to break through the police cordon and
again burned the IFC flag. They then set several buses and cars on fire and
prevented the fire brigade from reaching the scene. They also threw stones,
eggs and other objects at the Muslims and guests, who were forced to take
refuge in the neighbouring Islamic high school until the evening, when
SFOR (Stabilisation Force) units and RS police cleared the area. Among the
guests were the UN Chief of Mission for BH Jacques Klein, the United
States and United Kingdom ambassadors, and the regional officers for
international agencies in Banja Luka. Of those injured 19 were Muslims and
11 Serbs, 4 of whom were police officers.

RS government officials and the RS president, Mirko Sarovic, came to the
scene and spoke to the crowd trying to calm the situation. After the people
dispersed the RS government held an emergency session.

The RS government `energetically condemned' the Banja Luka riot, and the
prime minister said he would decide on whether to accept the resignations
after analysing what happened. The RS government instructed the Interior
Ministry to identify and arrest the riot organisers. `What happened in Banja
Luka and several days ago in Trebinje, does not support what the RS
government has started.' The RS government asked all sides and the
representatives of the international community to `work to calm and not to
raise tensions'. (END)

II. BOSNIA: WHO WAS BEHIND THE ANTI-MOSQUE RIOTS?

by Branko Bjelajac, Keston News Service

While officials of the Republika Srpska (RS), the Serbian entity of Bosnia,
deny in public that there is any proof that the attacks on the ceremonies to
lay the foundation stones to rebuild two mosques destroyed in the Bosnian
war - on 5 May in Trebinje and 7 May in Banja Luka - were pre-planned and
linked (see separate KNS article), Muslim leaders, international officials and
other sources assert that they were.

One source from Bosnia who did not want to be named told Keston News
Service `the RS government believes those two incidents were organised and
orchestrated'. According to the source, police believe one person arrested in
connection with the riot in Trebinje might lead them to the `ideologists'
behind the protests. `Everyone thinks this is all connected to the group
supporting [former Bosnian Serb leader] Radovan Karadzic and his militant
ways.'

On 8 May the Belgrade daily paper Glas javnosti published what it claimed
was the text of an A4 leaflet in Cyrillic distributed to passers-by in the centre
of Banja Luka in the morning of 7 May: `Serbian brothers, our city will be
attacked today by the Islamic hordes with the help of the criminals from
Austro-Hungary, and again they will try to cast the seed of Islam in our city.
Come at 11 am to the plateau where Ferhadija once was and with your
presence express your dissatisfaction with this event.'

In his condemnation of the attacks, OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Romanian
Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana, spoke of `this apparently orchestrated
violence in Banja Luka and Trebinje'. He maintained that the attacks were
`directed against the very ideals of ethnic tolerance and peaceful coexistence
- ideals that the international community has been working so hard to foster
in this country'.

In his 7 May statement from Bucharest, Geoana added that the perpetrators
and instigators of this `mob violence' must be brought to justice. `Not only
the violence against the symbolic revival of Islamic faith, but also the fact
that representatives of the international community were targeted and
threatened is an insult to all decent citizens of the Bosnian Serb Republic.'

He pointed out that `freedom of religion has been guaranteed by the
Constitution of the Bosnian Serb Republic and it is the responsibility of the
police to ensure unhindered exercise of this fundamental freedom, as well as
to guarantee the safety of all citizens'.

In its response to the Banja Luka riots, the local police claimed that `some of
the IFC guests behaved rather provocatively', an apparent bid to divide
responsibility between `citizens' (Serbs) and `guests' (Muslims). `The centre
for public security added 250 more police officers to the initial number of
300 to try to calm the situation,' a statement issued by the police on 7 May
declared. `The Islamic high school was protected by a Special Forces unit.'

Bosnia's Muslim leader Reis-ul-ulema Mustafa Ceric stated at an urgent
press conference called on 7 May: `What happened in Banja Luka cannot be
explained otherwise than that Serbian fascism is alive and that one should be
very cautious when speaking of democratic achievements in Republika
Srpska,' he said in remarks passed to Keston by the Muslim Information and
News Agency MINA in Sarajevo. `I was convinced I would never see such a
thing in my life again, after the siege of Sarajevo, but this was worse than
grenades because it happened six years later... As long as the Serbian
authorities do not identify and adequately punish persons who plan and
organise such riots, we have the right to believe that all the Serbs are
involved in such incidents.'

However, Zoran Glusac, head of the information bureau of the RS Ministry
of Interior, said it was too early to link the two incidents as the investigation
is still going on. `We are working hard to find the perpetrators and those who
organised this incident,' he told Keston on 8 May by telephone from Banja
Luka. `We have no evidence these two incidents were orchestrated in any
way. At the moment we are treating them as two separate incidents.'

The RS police were keen to show they have been taking action in the wake
of the riots. `The RS Interior Ministry is taking energetic legal measures
against the identified perpetrators of criminal activities and obstruction of
public peace and order,' declared an official police statement passed to
Keston from Banja Luka on 8 May. `The ministry will also initiate a critical
analysis of any eventual mistakes by the police in securing this event.'

Keston tried to contact the RS minister for religion Dusan Antelj in Banja
Luka, but despite repeated calls he was not available on 8 May `due to the
continuous meetings he is holding all day because of the situation', as his
office told Keston. The RS government claimed that the presence of Antelj
and two other RS ministers in the Islamic high school during the Banja Luka
riot `contributed to the calming of the situation'.

However, anti-Muslim violence is continuing. In the evening of 7 May a
hand grenade was thrown at the house of the local Muslim leader in
Trebinje, Izet Capic. No-one was injured and only the gate to the yard was
damaged. RS police declared in a statement that the local and international
police visited Capic's home and an investigation has begun. It is believed the
attack was connected to the 5 May riots against the mosque reconstruction in
the city. (END)

Copyright (c) 2001 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.