Hard-liners say they are 'hostages' to Plavsic police
September 9, 1997
Web posted at: 5:42 a.m. EST (1042 GMT)
BANJA LUKA, Bosnia (Reuters) -- Bosnian Serb hard-line
leaders claimed they were being held hostage in a Banja Luka
hotel on Tuesday after it was surrounded by police loyal to
President Biljana Plavsic.
The group included Momcilo Krajisnik, the powerful Serb
member of Bosnia's inter-ethnic presidency and Prime Minister
Both men are close to indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic
whose ruling SDS party has been locked in a two-month power
struggle with Plavsic after she accused its leadership of
Police wearing camouflage fatigues surrounded the Hotel
Bosnia in central Banja Luka before dawn and SDS adviser John
Zametica told reporters inside: "We are not confined to the
hotel, we are hostages here."
The Bosnian Serb news agency SRNA which is controlled by the
hard-liners alleged that Krajisnik and his group were
"brutalized" and their cars confiscated by police on Monday
night after an SDS rally against Plavsic in Banja Luka.
General Jacques Klein, U.S. deputy to the international high
representative in Bosnia, visited Krajisnik on Tuesday morning
and then left to find out who had ordered the operation.
The rally attracted only 150 hard-line supporters after NATO
peacekeepers and Plavsic's police prevented the SDS from bringing
paid demonstrators from eastern Bosnia by bus to attend.
NATO reported tense standoffs between peacekeepers and
frustrated hard-line supporters and five police were reported
hurt in clashes at a checkpoint outside Banja Luka.
The city center was sealed off to traffic on Tuesday
International mediators had warned the hard-liners on Monday
that patience was running out with their efforts to derail the
peace process in Bosnia.
Klein denounced the presence of "armed thugs" at the rally
organized by the hard-liners after eyewitnesses said some of the
SDS demonstrators were openly carrying guns.
Klein, who vowed to stay in Banja Luka until calm was
restored, told reporters: "This is a terrible indictment
against the people who organized this rally. Armed thugs running
around town have nothing to do with politics and it's time to
put a stop to this."
Pro-Plavsic demonstrators taunted Krajisnik and Klickovic
with shouts of "thieves, thieves," and forced them to retreat
to their hotel for safety.
Plavsic met Krajisnik in the presence of Patriarch Pavle of
the Serbian Orthodox Church during the rally, in an attempt to
find a way out of the impasse.
Political sources said Krajisnik refused an offer by Plavsic
to share national access to Bosnian Serb television, which now
has rival studios in Banja Luka and in Pale, outside Sarajevo,
where the hard-liners are based.
Both Krajisnik and Plavsic rejected Pavle's suggestion that
they should put themselves up for re-election to test their
personal support when the Serb entity holds parliamentary
elections next month.
The peacekeepers allowed Plavsic's police to deploy an
armored car in front of her offices as a precaution and
Plavsic's security commanders mobilized 1,600 military and
International mediators feared that a confrontation had been
engineered to affect the outcome of a campaign for Bosnian local
elections next weekend whose success is vital to the next stage
of the peace process.
Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.