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Riots in Banja Luka

By Cpl. Sbastien Pisani
First published in
SFOR Informer#107, February 21, 2001

Banja Luka - The British army is perfectly experienced with the maintenance of law and order in an urban environment. It was proved on February 12 a few hundred metres from Banja Luka camp. "Encouraging Lion" exercise was bringing together 65 men of the 2nd Battalion Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment (2PWRR) with about thirty members of the Czech battlegroup playing the role of overexcited young men.
· 15h05. Barricades and burning tyres are obstructing a lane bordering the buildings of a disused factory. When the first soldiers arrive, whistles of disapproval burst forth from the protesters ranks. Abuse and provocation are pointless; the Brits are staying rallied. Anti-sniper elements go into position on top of a platform for guarantying the infantrymen's security.
· 15h06. Some projectiles beat down on the 2PWRR troops. On Sgt. Maj. Martin Hollis's command, two APC give them their support, closely followed by reinforcements. Five APC and 65 well-trained men are now ready, among which are several dog handlers and a snatch squad. Pieces of wood and potatoes shower down on Plexiglas riot shields and helmets.
· 15h07. The attack begins. The two APC in the front row knock down the barricade. Once the obstacle is cleared, men gather around combat cars making an impassable rampart. The demonstrators quickly react: Molotov cocktail fall with a crash in front of the first row.
· 15h09. 2PWRR elements start their inexorable advance. The Czechs want to fight hand-to-hand to break the British ranks. The snatch squad appear suddenly, followed by one dog handler. Armed with truncheons, soldiers force rioters to step back and they bring several captives back behind their lines.
· 15h15. Under the pressure of APC, it is a general exodus of the demonstrators. The fight is going on in an adjacent lane. The snatch squad make more and more sorties. The Brits take advantage of an esplanade to deploy their whole force. Five APC now face weakened and tired rioters who have just one solution: to surrender.
"That was a very good job," said Maj. Gen. Rick Hilier, the Canadian commander of the MND-SW, in front of a large audience at the conclusion of the show. "These soldiers are perfectly trained. It is very important that each battlegroup has some units capable of intervening in that kind of situation for supporting the local police forces."
In the team of the British soldiers, relaxation took the place of the pressure during the fight. "Our past experience gets us used to difficult conditions of intervention. We usually got bricks and explosive device thrown at us," said Cpl. Paul Kelly.
In the rioters team, some had regrets that they did not have sufficient weapons, but street-fighting training has its rules.

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: UK
Training and Exercises