August 24. 1992 "Vreme" News Digest Agency No. 48

Bosnia Thunder

Cynical Arms Traders

by David Andric

In the so-called Bihac pocket, in Cazinska Krajina (Bosnia and Herzegovina) there are no doubts as to who is in power and as to how the division of Bosnia is viewed

"The struggle for the liberation of Bosnia and Herzegovina will start here," says President of the Cazin Executive Council Muhamed Osmanagic. "Bosnia's fate cannot be discussed without the Moslems. If necessary, we will fight against the Croats too." "It will probably be necessary," adds a colleague.

Osmanagic and his friends represent what the West now calls hard-line Bosnians.

Franjo Tudjman (President of Croatia) might have been thinking of them when he recently spoke of an Islamic state in Europe, thus equalizing his views with those of Karadzic (Leader of Bosnian Serbs) et al. Local Moslems do not talk much about faith. They have another kind of strength. No compromise and no surrender.

"UNPROFOR (United Nations Protection Force in Yugoslavia) has advised us to evacuate women and children. But that would be the end then. War is war. If they die, then it is fate." There is no defeatism in Cazinska Krajina for the present. Hatred, especially of Serbs, does not exist. Serb prisoners, hostages who will be exchanged, are held in an abandoned cement pipe factory in Coralici. They are frightened, but seem to be treated well. There are no camps. Stories of Serbs held captive in the Bihac stadium are not true: only refugees, mostly Moslems, can be found there.

"Perhaps we too will become bitter and brutal if this continues," says Osmanagic. In the meantime, an airport is being built in Coralici, but nobody wishes to speak of it. A Cazin official says that in future, planes carrying aid will land at it. But, are planes landing there already? UNPROFOR soldiers in Kninska Krajina say they can hear planes at night. UN officials in Zagreb suspect that aid is arriving from Arab countries. The Intercontinental Hotel in Zagreb is full of Iranians. But all remains conjecture. Nothing can be proved.

There are 300,000 Moslems in Cazinska Krajina and they account for 82 percent of the region's population. The Croatian Defence Council (HVO) and one entire Croatian battalion are in Bihac, even though HVO President Tomislav Dretar says that he does not recognize Boban (Mate, leader of Bosnian Croats) or Herzeg-Bosnia (Croatian held territory in B-H). Whether or not he recognizes them, the main street is full of black-marketers and he is seen talking to a lanky young HOS (Croatian Defence Forces) member. "They want to take my badge. They say I can't wear the "U" (stands for Ustasha, the Croatian fascist army from the World War II), complains the HOS member. Dretar cheers him: "We'll set up a special brigade. An elite one. Only men who have been in the front-lines will be in it."

Going to the front-lines recalls scenes from old Partisan films. A group of ten youths walking at a distance of 50 meters from each other, pass through a wood and across a hill. From the trench Serbian soldiers can be seen clearly, walking furtively through a corn-field at a distance of some 50 meters. None of the fighters may speak, let alone fire, as that would reveal their positions.

The situation of Bosnian fighters in this area is another story. None of them say where they found their only tank. Dretar explains the origin of the weapons: "We captured some, took some from the territorial defence depot, bought some - even from Serbs in Knin (Kninska Krajina). I bought an antiaircraft gun for 5,000 DM. A man from Krajina, whom we know well, brought it piece by piece. It took about five days. Others have also bought from the Serbs. When I told an emissary from Krajina we would use the arms against his men, he said "I don't care." When I asked another why he was selling us arms, he said sarcastically: "I support the right cause."