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Basketball Fans Beat Up in Bosnia

March 31, 2000

BANJA LUKA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ The Bosnian Serb prime minister publicly apologized Friday for letting his bodyguards beat up rival basketball fans after a game involving the team he runs.

Three young men were treated for head injuries after four of Milorad Dodik’s security staff attacked them. The incident followed the Bosnian Serb basketball championship Thursday evening.

Igokea, the team of which Dodik is a longtime fan and president, beat Borac 90-79, knocking Borac from its six-year-long run as champion. After the game, Dodik joined the players and the rest of the club’s leadership in celebrating the win. The prime minister turned to the Borac fans, showing them the traditional three-fingered Serb sign for victory.

The fans responded with vulgarities, and chanted the names of Dodik’s political opponents in upcoming local elections.

Dodik’s security then ran over to the Borac side and started attacking fans. Local police looked on without reacting.

Three men were treated for head injuries at the nearby medical center, Dr. Bosko Miljevic said. No other details were available.

The hard-line opposition Bosnian Serb Democratic Party issued a statement Friday calling the incident a ``brutal attack.″

``His behavior is no different than the way he performs in the parliament, where he wildly threatens his political opponents,″ the statement said.

Dodik also issued a press release Friday apologizing for the incident. He said two members of his security team were suspended.

``I am aware ... that such matches are always an excuse of raising tensions, especially now ahead of the elections,″ Dodik wrote.

Dodik enjoys support from the West for his moderate policies. But many people in the Serb-run half of Bosnia are fed up with what they see as his arrogance.

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