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Bosnia: Brcko Serbs Stone U.S. SFOR Troops

Brcko, Bosnia-Herzegovina; 28 August 1997 (RFE/RL) - Crowds of Bosnian Serbs clashed with NATO-led troops and UN police in several Bosnian Serb-held towns today after hardline calls urging the public to defend police stations and broadcast facilities.

The NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR) says it strengthened its presence in Brcko, Bijeljina and Doboj overnight to prevent an outbreak of violence. The deployment followed reports that Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic planned to wrest control of the stations from hardline supporters of her rival, indicted war crime suspect Radovan Karadzic.

In the northeast town of Brcko, hundreds of people, some armed with sticks and stones, attacked U.S. SFOR troops at the local police station. The crowd also attacked the UN International Police Task Force (IPTF) police station and the office of the Brcko's international supervisor Robert Farrand, causing heavy material damage but no casualties.

Two U.S. SFOR soldiers and two IPTF police officers were reported injured.

Hardline Bosnian Serb news media say SFOR troops wounded four civilians in the clashes in Brcko, threw tear gas and fired above a crowd's head with machine guns. Staff members of The Associated Press Television in Brcko say they saw tear gas dropped from NATO helicopters and NATO troops firing shots. They saw a woman bleeding from a leg but could not say who wounded her. A NATO spokesman in Sarajevo said, however, the troops did not fire any shots.

In Bijeljina, hundreds of people attacked a joint IPTF-SFOR patrol, breaking their windshields and windows before the troops managed to get away safely.

The Bosnian Serb news agency SRNA says SFOR troops have taken control of the television transmitter in Udrigovo, near Bijeljina, and have turned off the power supply to prevent any broadcasts. SRNA says several thousand people gathered in Bijeljina's center, including General Pero Colic, Prime Minister Gojko Klickovic and Agriculture Minister Djojo Arsenovic, all Karadzic loyalists.