Richard North, 07/01/2006  

One ventures into the area of Balkans politics with some trepidation, but there seem to be some unanswered questions about the incident last Thursday when EUFOR soldiers in Bosnia killed the wife of suspect war criminal Rada Abazovic and badly injured her 12-year-old son Dragan.

Now reported by the AKI agency - which, like all media reports, must be treated with caution – the Serbs are protesting about the killing, which occurred when the soldiers stormed the family's house in the village og Kozoci, some 40 miles east of Sarajevo.

The incident took place Thursday when EUFOR soldiers, came to arrest Dragomir Abazovic, who is wanted for war crimes he allegedly committed during the 1992-1995 Balkans war.

According to Reuters, wife and son fired four clips from an AK-47 at Italian troops as they came to arrest Abazovic, before a soldier killed her and wounded the boy. The Agency cites a EUFOR statement, which claims:

At approximately 0945 on 5 January, members of EUFOR, acting on intelligence, approached the residence of Dragomir Abazovic in order to conduct reconnaissance to establish his whereabouts. Abazovic was seen and positively identified, outside his property, by the EUFOR tactical commander. As is standard procedure, the commander requested ... the immediate presence of local police, in order that they could carry out an arrest ...

At the same time, a woman came out of the house and opened fire on the commander and his civilian interpreter ... she fired short bursts from an automatic weapon, a Kalashnikov AK-47. Soon after, she was joined by a boy. As the commander took cover, other members of EUFOR chased Abazovic while the woman turned her fire on them. Abazovic was eventually cornered, and he turned his weapon on himself, shooting himself in the forehead and falling to the ground.
AKI, however, maintains that the events are not wholly clear and the official statement on the EUFOR website is less than forthcoming. It simply confirms the killing, on the morning of 5 January. According to this statement, as EUFOR troops were deploying at the location, they were fired upon and "fired back in self-defence." The statement continues: "Two people in the target house were injured. The suspect subsequently injured himself."

Bosnian Serb leader Dragan Cavic, president of Bosnian Serb entity Republika Srpska (RS), has responded with a statement, saying that it was not the first time that the international forces had used violence against RS citizens, "with tragic consequences". He described the EUFOR action as "manifestation of a brutal force and violation of European conventions on human rights and freedoms".

In Belgrade Andreja Mladenovic, spokesman for Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica’s Democratic Party of Serbia, said the Eufor action was “unprofessional, brutal and arrogant”. “No one has the right to commit crime under any circumstances, and this time innocent people were shot at by those who pretend to implement justice,” he said.

The troops come within the responsibility of the "Multinational Task Force South East", which includes six participating nations: Italy, Germany, France, Spain, Morocco and Albany, under the command of a Spanish Army officer, Brigadier General Benito Raggio – whose experience includes participation in missions in Angola and Guatemala.

The case has now been referred to the State Prosecutor’s Office and no further official statements have been forthcoming. One wonders what the media would have made of the incident had it been in Iraq, with US troops attempting to arrest one of Saddam's henchmen.


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