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
"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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