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International officials demand arrest of Croat police

February 26, 1997

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ International officials today demanded the immediate arrest of three Bosnian Croat police officers involved in a shooting attack on Muslims in the divided city of Mostar.

International investigators blamed Bosnian Croat police for firing shots into a group of several hundred Muslim pilgrims seeking to visit a cemetery in the Croat-controlled part of town. One Muslim was killed and about 20 were wounded in one of the worst incidents of ethnic violence since the 1995 Dayton peace accord.

Their report, released late Tuesday, singled out the deputy chief of Croat police in western Mostar, Ivan Hrkac, and two other Croat police officers, Bozo Peric and Zeljko Planinic, who were involved in the Feb. 10 shooting.

Robert Wasserman, head of U.N. police in Bosnia, today presented photographs clearly showing Hrkac, who was not in uniform, and two others firing into the retreating Muslim crowd.

At least 15 plainclothes and uniformed Croat policemen intercepted the Muslims and started beating them before the shooting broke out. There was no comment today from Bosnia Croat police.

``The use of lethal force against a group that is leaving a scene in retreat is a gross violation of not only the law but of any kind of professional police procedure,″ Wasserman said.

The incident underscored rising animosities between Bosnian Muslims and Croats, supposed to be partners in the shaky federation that makes up half of Bosnia. Serbs control the other half.

In 1993-94, Muslims and Croats fought over territory, including Mostar, until they formed a federation under strong U.S. pressure. Mistrust persists as hard-liners on both sides pursue a nationalist agenda.

After the shooting, more Muslims were evicted from the Croat-controlled part of Mostar, and several Croats were beaten in the Muslim part.

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