Bosnia-Herzegovina unrest turns violent as protesters storm government buildings

8th Feb 2014

Protesters in Bosnia-Herzegovina have stormed government buildings across the country, setting several ablaze. The country is witnessing its worst social unrest since the end of the 1992-95 war. 

Anti-government demonstrators angered by the nation’s 40 percent unemployment and rampant corruption  set fire to sections of the Bosnian presidency in Sarajevo on Friday, prompting clashes with police.

Protesters attempting to force their way into the building were repelled by special police firing water cannon. They succeeded in storming another government building, also setting that ablaze.

In the north-eastern town of Tuzla around 100 hooded youths entered the seat of the regional authority and proceeded to throw furniture and television sets out of its windows. Smoke was seen emanating from the building shortly afterwards.

Riot police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters in both cities in a desperate attempt to quell the violence.

Government buildings were also targeted in the towns of Zenica, Mostar and Travnik. In the northern town of Brcko, a crowd briefly took the mayor hostage before releasing him, news agency AP reported.

At least 200 people were injured across the country on Friday alone, police and medical workers reported.

Meanwhile the chiefs of cantonal governments in Zenica and Tuzla announced they were stepping down as a result of protests.

Support for Tuzla workers

Bosnia-Herzegovina has now witnessed three days of unprecedented unrest. It is considered the worst the country has seen since the 1992-95 war that killed over 100,000 people following Yugoslavia’s dissolution.

Protests first broke out in the industrial city of Tuzla on Wednesday when unpaid workers from four former-state owned companies took to the streets demanding back pay, and an end to job losses and corruption.

When the  demonstrations turned violent on Thursday, around 130 were injured, mainly from tear gas.

The four failed firms filed for bankruptcy between 2000 and 2008 after a wave of privatizations that followed the end of the war. The failed firms included furniture and washing powder factories. Roughly one in four people in the city were left unemployed.

Protests have remained largely contained to the Croat-Muslim Bosniak half of Bosnia.

In a symbol of solidarity, however, hundreds of people gathered in the capital of the Bosnian Serb part of the country, Banja Luka, on Friday.

“We gathered to support the protests in Tuzla where people are fighting for their rights,” said Aleksandar Zolja, an activist from Banja Luka.

ccp/av (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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