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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moslem-Croat Police Take Over Ilidza

SARAJEVO -- Moslem-Croat authorities took control of the Sarajevo suburb of Ilidza from Bosnian Serbs on Tuesday as NATO moved in extra troops to try to limit looting and burning by vengeful Serb nationalists.


The streets of Ilidza and the inner city Grbavica district, which the Serbs must hand over next week, were saturated with French peacekeepers.


Admiral Leighton Smith, U.S. commander of the NATO mission, said: "We've got our guys out there, and we're doing everything we can short of shooting people."


The deployment was too late to prevent the destruction of many buildings in Ilidza which had survived the 3 1/2 year Bosnian war almost intact.


There were hopes that the stronger NATO presence in Grbavica would save it from the same fate, but Smith warned that his options were limited.


"How do I stop a guy from burning down a building unless I'm inside the house and I blow the match out," he said. "I can't bring peace to Bosnia. Nobody can. It has to come from inside."


The Moslem-Croat federation in Bosnia has now taken control of four of the five Serb suburbs in Sarajevo under the Dayton peace agreement.


Their Serb populations, claiming they fear retaliation for their wartime siege of the city, have mostly fled to territory under the control of their own government.


A joint force of federation police moved into Ilidza along with a jubilant crowd of civilians, but Moslem police officials excluded nine of its Croat members because they were wearing the blue uniforms of Croat police.


The nine Croats were told that if they wore their blue uniforms, they might not be safe and were basically intimidated into going home," UN spokesman Alexander Ivanko said.


The incident was typical of the postwar tensions between Moslems and Croats who have been forced into a reluctant alliance by U.S. diplomacy.


The mayor of Sarajevo said Tuesday he had resigned because of the exclusion of Croat deputies from the Sarajevo cantonal assembly.


But political feuding did not mar the jubilation among ordinary people on the streets of Ilidza, whose remaining Serb police left Monday, firing guns and throwing grenades as they drove off, after protecting the withdrawal of the Serb population.


Moslem and Croat refugees poured in to see whether their homes had survived the wave of arson. "We're happy to be here, just to see whatever is left," Bajrovic, a Moslem man, said.