By Cpl. Nicolas Girault
First published in
SFOR Informer#116, June 27, 2001
Monday June 18, the rebuilding of Ferhadijas
mosque started in Banja Luka. Discreetly, SFOR was there; plans
of action were ready to prevent excesses like those of May 7 (See
SFOR Informer no. 113). A Bosniac was killed and then several
others seriously injured. Among the deployed forces was the Portuguese
morning, the bus from Knesevo (ex-Skender Vakuf) is a few kilometres
from Banja Luka. It runs along the Vrbas river for ten minutes,
when passengers notice a Portuguese APC (Armoured Personal Carrier)
parked on the roadside. In the Chaimite V-200, the crew picked
out this bus and another one; they inform the Check Point
2 which control vehicles entering Banja Luka.
at the towns entry, at the roads coming from the souths
junction, Check Point 2 is also Cpt. Joao Santanas command
post. Santana is the commander for the Portuguese action plan.
It is the place where the two buses are expected to stop at a
The buses park on the verge. They are checked one after the other.
Portuguese cavalryman with an interpreter climb on board and ask
the drivers and passengers where they come from and where are
they going. Then, drivers open the boot for a military check,
to look for weapons.
As the bus continues on, Santana explains: If more Bosniacs
had been in the vehicle, they would have been sent back.
SFOR ready for intervention
Gen. Rick Hillier, MND-SW commander, gave PDSS (Person Designated
with a Special Status) status to Bosniac officials attending the
ceremony. This status permits SFOR to intervene, where and when
it needs to, to protect people without waiting for any request
of local authorities or the International Community.
|Decisive action of the Bosnian-Serb
Contrary to the first Ferhadijas ceremony, Republika
Srpskas authorities and local police showed professional
skills in maintaining law and order. Its action did not require
SFORs intervention, even though SFOR was ready.
This operation needed the deployment of 2200 policemen, i.e.
about a third of RS Minister of Interiors forces. A
part of these forces ensured the security of participants
and officials (United Kingdom and United States ambassadors,
RS officials, BiH government members
); the other part
were anti-riot units. They were forced to use water cannons
and teargas to face about a thousand of hostile demonstrators.
Fifteen police officers were injured during the riot. Police
informed the UNMIBH that it arrested 97 people and that other
arrests were planned. During the night, 50 police officers
guarded the mosque site.
All the International Community commended the RS police action.
OHR added that the leadership of the RS had to enforce
their programme on democratisation, reconciliation, education
of the police and of the wider public in particular
the youth. Mr. Wolfgang Petritsch also expects that
the RS will actively support the return process (
and supporting the common state institutions of BiH, as specified
in the GFAP.
The Stabilisation Force is ready and determined
to intervene as soon as the first problem arises. A heavy but
very discreet plan of action had been set up. Each contingent
had its own tasks: Brits together with Italian and Slovenian Multinational
Specialised Unit (MSU) must intercede and question. The Canadians
task is to organise the possible evacuation of the ceremonys
participants. The Czechs must secure the other contingents
actions. The Portuguese with the British Queens Dragon Guard
Regiment and Bugojnos Dutch Engineers had to form a cordon
all around Banja Luka.
To cut off the town if needed
Santana said: We were the first to be deployed and we will
be the last to leave the town. This is the Operational Reserves
second mission. The first time, they showed the flag,
they were deployed from Sunday June 17, 14.30. So, from midnight,
they had to check vehicles entering the town. If SFOR intervenes,
we will establish a road block to isolate Banja Luka from the
rest of the country, Santana added.
Observation points were placed on all the access roads to the
town, in order to inform checkpoints located on all the towns
gates. At Check Point 8, placed in the north, Portuguese Lt. Fernando
Ribeiro said: we were informed about the possible arrival
of young Bosnian-Serb extremists by bus. In the south SFOR
are waiting for Bosniac extremists.
It seems that the Operational Reserve action was a deterrent,
because no external extremists tried to force their way into Banja
Luka. So, RS police had only to deal with demonstrators, all from
the town. And the policemen always kept the situation under control,
Nations of SFOR: Portugal
SFOR at Work