By 1st Lt. Javier Donesteve
First published in
SFOR Informer#111, April 18, 2001
Mostar - A major part of the activity and nearly
all the violent response against the April 6 operation of OHR,
IPTF and SFOR personnel took place in Multinational Division -
Southeast area of responsibility (AOR). Specifically, the action
took place in five of the eight branch offices of Herzegobacka
Banka, located in Cantons 7 (Mostar and Medjugorje) and 8 (Posusje,
Siroki Brijeg and Grude).
from the French and Spanish battle groups, both based in Mostar,
were involved, as well as the Moroccan Battalion (Divisional Organic
Element) and the Multinational Specialised Unit (MSU). SFOR's
task was to provide security in the surrounding areas of the bank
branches where OHR, Federation and IPTF teams had to enter in
order to obtain all the information needed.
The operation began at 7 a.m. The French carried out the task
in Siroki Brijeg and Posusje. "Two infantry companies and
the cavalry squadron took part," explained Capt. Jean Marie
Delion, French Battle Group Headquarters. "The operation
in Siroki Brijeg was completely successful. Everything had finished
before the demonstrators had time to be organised."
On the other hand, resistance was found in Posusje. "To ensure
the security of the international personnel, the area was evacuated.
During this, some barricades had to be cleared with our VAB (French
APC)," Delion said.
The Spanish Battle Group found many more problems in accomplishing
their goals, especially in Mostar and Grude. The head office of
the bank is in Mostar, and the OHR team needed several hours to
find all the documentation and information in the archives and
computers. In these hours, organised groups of people began to
surround the building in a very aggressive attitude. Riots began.
The massive use of mobile phones signalled hundreds of people,
"Ninety percent male from 15 to 25 years old," according
to eyewitnesses. Stones and eggs were thrown at the international
inspectors and their Carabinieri escort, who were also threatened
and hit. They took refuge inside the bank, until the arrival of
SFOR troops to escort their evacuation. During these events several
inspectors and their escorts were injured.
no one was left in the bank, the anger of the mob turned to Hotel
Ero, where the Mostar OHR office is located on the fifth floor.
Ambassador Colin Munro, head of Mostar OHR, and 20 of his personnel
were there, among them German Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jörg Lehman,
MND-SE Public Information Office (PIO). "At 11 a.m. a press
conference was held without any incident. Everything began later,"
he said. "The crowds began to turn cars upside down and place
barricades. Other citizens tried to stop them, reproaching their
attitude, but were hit with sticks. Even weapons were seen and
shots heard. We were told that demonstrators were already inside
the building. They were hours of great tension."
Two "representatives" of the organised thugs, one of
them "a very arrogant and dominating female," told Munro
to leave the offices with his staff in 10 minutes without taking
any documentation. During the events, Dragan Mandic, Cantonal
Minister of Internal Affairs, visited the office, "not to
protect us, but as a mediator," Munro said.
The situation ended with the arrival of more SFOR troops. "At
least 10 Spanish APC appeared. I will never forget the arrival
of a young Spanish lieutenant and a female corporal to the fifth
floor to escort us," Lehman remembered. "They showed
a lot of calm, even receiving hundreds of stones from the mob.
They proved a lot of professionalism." The evacuation was
carried out with tension, but without incidents.
The situation in Grude was even uglier where a group of seven
people from SFOR and the international community were trapped
inside the bank. After many tense hours, they were released and
The situation after the incidents is tense but calm. SFOR is guarding
international organisation buildings such as OHR or OSCE as well
as patrolling to ensure a safe and secure environment
The question remains about the performance of local police during
the events. The Federation Ministry of Interior pressed charges
April 12 against two police chiefs "for not doing enough
to stop violence in Mostar and other towns." On another side,
the IPTF commissioner has suspended 17 policemen for a month "for
having lent their support to separatists living in their communities."
Related link: SFOR