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Ilidza bunkers down for hand over to local authorities

By Cpl. Diego Bunuel
First published in
SFOR Informer #94, August 16, 2000


Ilidza - This suburb of Sarajevo used to be like Beverly Hills - where exclusive hotels, shopping malls and classy restaurants abounded. After the war ended, the headquarters for IFOR, then SFOR moved into the city's water cure complex comprised of four hotels located in a floral park and bordered by the Bosna River -- but living there was no holiday.
Bunkers sprung up like mushrooms, barbed wire fences circled the camp and security in and out was tight. But as Camp Butmir became the new headquarters location for SFOR, the Ilidza camp looks like a ghost town. The hotels are boarded up, and a detachment of 75 Moroccan soldiers guard are left to protect the premises. The hundreds of containers have vanished, and the only reminder of the three years spent in the camp are the concrete bunkers that towered over the fences. But even these stalwart structures had to come down.
On Aug. 15, local authorities took over the base and all military structures will soon be destroyed.
"All the hotels are going to be refurbished, and the grounds are going to be re-seeded," said Paul Briggs, site supervisor. "We are taking down six bunkers. The only one remaining is attached to the Winter Palace, we don't want to damage the building."
From Aug. 4-8, the Spanish engineers from the UNIG 11 of Salamanca hacked away at the concrete constructions with backhoes and jackhammers.
"This is the first time that we ever had to tear down bunkers," said Sgt. Angel Diez, 27. "So we had to think about how we would do it. You can't just rip it apart. We had to take all the precautions necessary but that's why we're engineers."
One after the other, the bunkers crumbled under the monstrous strength of the backhoe until they reached the foundation of the last bunker.
"It seems to be made of high grade concrete," said Briggs as the backhoe shovel crashed on the slab barely chipping at it. "I would have loved to have finished the job," said Sgt. Diez. "We tried everything to break it."
Eventually the slab will be hoisted by a crane and dropped in a dump truck. Meanwhile everything seems ready for the hand over, so Briggs is making the finishing touches. "This took a lot of planning and co-ordination," Briggs said. "But the job's done."

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: Spain