Anti-government protests show signs of spreading in Bosnia

by Reuters
Thursday, 6 February 2014 18:30 GMT

* Dozens injured in Tuzla, Sarajevo

* Second day of unrest in Tuzla over job losses

* Anger over political inertia, corruption (Adds police intervention)

By Daria Sito-Sucic

SARAJEVO, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Dozens of people were injured on Thursday in a second day of anti-government protests in the Bosnian town of Tuzla, backed by smaller demonstrations in other towns over unemployment and political inertia.

The protests reflect resentment over the ethnic politicking that has stifled governance and economic development since the 1992-95 war.

A spokesman for the Tuzla police said protesters have started rioting, setting on fire garbage beans and trashing nearby shop windows. Now police are getting strong reinforcement: a go-ahead to use force to stop the vandalism.

"The police will use all means at their disposal to prevent vandalism and protect citizens and public property," Izudin Saric told Reuters.

Police fired tear gas to drive back several thousand people lobbing stones, eggs and flares at a local government building in the town, once the industrial heart of Bosnia's north but hit hard by factory closures in recent years.

Forty-five people, 30 of them police officers, were treated in hospital for minor injuries, hospital officials said. Of 27 people arrested overall on Wednesday, 24 were released. Protesters demanded the release of the others.

Hundreds of people turned out in solidarity in the capital Sarajevo, the central town of Zenica and Bihac in the west. Teenagers threw eggs and stones at a government building and fought with police. Four officers were taken to hospital, officials said.

Some of the Sarajevo protesters were heard chanting "Killers!" and "Revolution!"

"It was our government that sold state assets for peanuts and left the people without pensions, jobs or health insurance," said 24-year-old Hana Obradovic, an unemployed graduate. "Their families have nothing to eat while (the politicians) sit in the institutions and steal from the people."

The Tuzla protesters are made up mainly of workers laid off when state-owned companies were sold off but then collapsed under private ownership.

At 27.5 percent, Bosnia's unemployment rate is the highest in the Balkans.

Bickering political leaders, brought to power by a power-sharing system created under Bosnia's 1995 peace deal, are seen as offering few solutions. Much of the political class is perceived as deeply corrupt.

Adis Arapovic, an analyst of the Centre for Civil Initiatives, told the Bosnian daily Dnevni Avaz: "The revolt in Tuzla is the culmination of years-long social discontent, injustice and the irresponsibility and idleness of the institutions." (Additional reporting by Maja Zuvela and Miran Jelenek; Editing by Matt Robinson/Ruth Pitchford/Larry King)

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