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Return to normality

By 1st Lt. Javier Donesteve
First published in
SFOR Informer#114, May 30, 2001

Normality is returning to "Mato Lucic Maturica" barracks at Kiseljak, home of the 3rd Guards Motorised Brigade, VF-H (Bosnian-Croat component of the Federation Army).

Kiseljak - The agreement reached between Federation Minister of Defence (FMoD) Mijo Anic and Generals Zlatan Mijo Jelic and Mario Bradara put an end to weeks of tension and uncertainty. SFOR was highly involved in those events, providing general security and more when needed.
The crisis started in March, when the HDZ, a Bosnian-Croat nationalist party led by Ante Jelavic, formerly the Croat member of BiH's tripartite presidency, launched the so-called Croat self-rule (HNS). The loyalty of some VF-H members to the Federation began to be questioned. In support of this movement, many of them left their barracks in an organised mutiny to challenge the authority of the Federation Army.
SFOR, highly concerned with the fact that the lack of soldiers could put at risk the security of the Weapon Storage Sites (WSS), began to monitor the B-Croat barracks closely. The German Battle Group carried out this task in the surroundings of 3rd Guards Brigade's installations at Kiseljak, within their area of responsibility. This VF-H unit, then commanded by Col. Marinko Palavra, was particularly involved in the mutiny.
Early May 11, Italian troops came from Sarajevo to reinforce the Germans; they deployed, entered and took over the "Mato Lucic Maturica" barracks.
"The goal of the operation was to ensure the security of the installation as a WSS, as well as to create the best conditions for the return of the loyal soldiers to the Federation Army," explained Italian Maj. Fabrizio Leone, task force commander. "Everything went smoothly. No incidents were reported."
On the morning of May 14, several officers and about 200 loyal soldiers who had signed their contracts with the Federation Army entered the barracks and returned to their regular tasks. Hours before, in the early morning, SFOR Italian troops had escorted out the disloyal soldiers from the installations in support of FMoD decision. These actions were not welcomed by nationalist movements, and were answered in the subsequent days with gatherings and protests. Reports also informed about threats and other violent acts toward loyal members of VF-H.
Return to normality
On May 15, 1st Lt. Vlado Kapetanovic, who was inside the barracks, died - victim of a heart attack. The FMoD expressed their regret, as well as "repudiated with indignation the allegations blaming other loyal officers, saying that he wanted to leave the installation, but his alleged friends would not let him do so.
On the afternoon of May 16, a demonstration took place in front of the barracks to protest the joint FMoD and SFOR action. Jelic, former commander of the 1st Guards Corps, informed the gathering that an agreement had been reached with Anic about the return of all the voluntary B-Croat soldiers to their duties. "Tomorrow the VF-H will start 'functioning' again," Jelic said. The only incident was when several stones were thrown over the fence at the Italian soldiers.
The agreement was welcomed by SFOR and the whole international community as a step toward peace and stability in BiH.
But this process has just begun. Anic estimated the time needed to establish the exact records of VF-H soldiers would be 15 or 20 days.
Meanwhile, the Italian Task Force stays and will stay in Kiseljak barracks, ensuring the security of the camp against any threat, according to the General Framework Agreement for Peace, Annex 1A, which is in the core of SFOR's mandate.

Related link: SFOR at Work
Nations of SFOR: Italy