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Second Round

By 1st Lt. Javier Donesteve
First published in
SFOR Informer#112, May 3, 2001

Mostar - In the early morning of April 18, a second operation in the main office of Hercegovacka Banka was held. Its aim was to collect evidentiary material to complete the on-going investigation about the bank's illegal activities, and to provide the Provisional Administrator Toby Robinson all the documentation she required in order to do her job.
As the first time, the action was carried out by personnel of the Office of the High Representative (OHR), and supported by SFOR. It began at 2 a.m. and was completed at 6:20 a.m.
The attempt on April 6 to gather information from the head office and nine other branches was partly unsuccessful as a result of the highly organised and violent response, that caused injures to more than 20 international officials, among them many SFOR soldiers.
"The former senior management was invited to meet with the provisional administrator; when they refused they left us no choice," said Ralph Johnson, principal deputy high representative. "During the operation, our personnel were forced to use technical means such as explosives to gain access to rooms and vaults." High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch held responsible for the damage those who denied the provisional administrator access to the bank.
"The main characteristics of the action were deception, surprise and fast pace," said Brig. Gen. Robert Meille, Multinational Division - Southeast (MND-SE) commander. "It must be clear to everyone that SFOR will give its support to the international community whenever illegal activities need to be discovered. We shall not tolerate any criminal activity that might put at risk the safety of the people."
The SFOR contribution to the operation was to provide overall security, as well as close protection for the OHR personnel. In addition, transportation assets were provided for the participant teams and to carry sealed evidentiary material. During the first operation on April 6, minimum force was deployed. However, as a result of the unexpected and organised violence that were faced then, a much larger force was used in the subsequent action to minimise the risk.
This second operation involved forces from the five contributing nations in MND-SE (French, German, Italian, Moroccan and Spanish), as well as the British Battle Group, presently based on The 2nd Battalion, Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment (PWRR), which was in charge of securing the bank and its surroundings. Meanwhile, the rest of the force was deployed in other key points, to isolate the determined area from any undesired entry or exit).
The operation went smoothly. The HR welcomed the successful action and was grateful to SFOR for providing support. In this occasion no attempt was made to use violence against the international personnel; the documentation has been recovered, and is now being examined by the provisional administrator and her staff.

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