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The ABiH Probing Attack, (January, 1993)

Even before Jajce fell, the ABiH appears to have been planning some sort of offensive against the Bosnian Croats in central Bosnia. After October 29, 1992, the increasing numbers of able-bodied military-age Muslim refugees entering the region were organized, armed, and trained for offensive operations; mujahideen, ABiH soldiers, and armed refugees were infiltrated into key villages in groups of three or four men and hidden in Muslim homes or mosques; and by the end of 1992, the ABiH had positioned a number of its combat brigades in key locations throughout the Lasva, Kozica, and Lepenica Valleys.1 In retrospect, the latter actions were particularly significant.

The first phase of the ABiH offensive plan began on January 20-21, 1993, and took the form of a probing action designed to seize key terrain and position forces for the coming main attack; to test HVO resistance and uncover HVO defensive plans and methods; and probably to test the reactions of UNPROFOR forces to an open conflict between the Muslims and Croats. This stage of the campaign, which was preceded by an ABiH III Corps attack on the town of Gornji Vakuf in an attempt to seal off the central Bosnia battlefield by closing the vital Route DIAMOND supply route, lasted only a few days, in large part because the HVO was able to repulse the main Muslim probes and quickly force a stalemate. The ABiH subsequently drew back and reformed in preparation for the main offensive in rnid-April, 1993. The ABiH planners probably viewed the UNPROFOR's lack of response as a "green light" for the planned main attack in April.

The ABiH achieved tactical surprise with its January probing operations. Brigadier Ivica Zeko, the OZCB intelligence officer at the time, said in retrospect that it is clear the Muslims were positioning their units for an offensive, but that neither he nor anyone else in the HVO had a clear indication of it before the Muslims launched their attack. The HVO was working with the Muslims against the Serbs, and no one was looking for Muslim perfidy. For example, the HVO headquarters in central Bosnia apparently did not target the ABiH for intelligence purposes before mid-January, 1993, although the Muslim intelligence services targeted the HVO.2 But even had the HVO known in advance of the Muslim attack, there is little that could have done in terms of repositioning its forces, which were heavily committed on the lines against the Serbs.

Despite Zeko's disclaimer, the OZCB apparently did have some indications that something was about to happen. The attack on Gornji Vakuf and fighting in the Prozor area were clear signs that a major ABiH operation was in the offing in central Bosnia, and there were probably warnings from the HVO Main Staff in Mostar. On January 16, 1993, HQ, OZCB, ordered all subordinate units to raise their combat readiness to the highest level, including the cancellation of all leaves, the collection and redistribution of weapons in private hands, the disarming and isolation of Muslim members of the HVO who disobeyed orders, and an increase in the security posture of various Croat villages in the Operative Zone. The HVO brigades in Zenica and Busovaca were directed to organize surveillance of the area between Zenica and the Lasva Valley, and the HVO brigade in Novi Travnik was instructed to monitor the area toward Gornji Vakuf and be prepared to act on order. The 4th Military Police Battalion was ordered to secure the HVO's military and political headquarters, control traffic, and confiscate weapons and other equipment from Muslim transports. The PPN "Vitezovi" and "Ludvig Pavlovic" were employed from January 19 on reconnaissance and intelligence-gathering missions to track the movement of ABiH units in the OZCB area of operations.

The ABiH Attack on Gornji Vakuf

While the town of Gornji Vakuf (usually called Uskoplje by Croats) was in the Operative Zone Northwest Herzegovina rather than the OZCB, it was of vital importance to the defenders of the Croat enclaves in central Bosnia inasmuch as it was the southern terminus of the vital Novi Travnik-Gornji Vakuf supply route. Before the conflict in January, 1993, Gornji Vakuf's population included about ten thousand Croats and fourteen thousand Muslims. Many of the surrounding villages had a Croat majority, and in the town itself the Croats and Muslims lived in mixed areas. When the Serbs attacked Croatia in 1991, the HVO in Gornji Vakuf started making military preparations, and by the time of the Battle of Kupres in 1992 had formed one HVO company. There were few problems in the town; the Muslims and Croats had parallel governmental and military structures, and the two communities coexisted warily. In August, 1992, the Muslim Green Berets, paramilitary group established a headquarters in Gornji Vakuf, and they, rather than Territorial Defense troops, began to patrol the nearby Muslim villages. However, there were no serious incidents between the Muslims and Croats until January 8-10, 1993, when, as a prelude to the ABiH attack on the town, about a hundred Croats were expelled from their homes in the Muslim sections of town. On January 10, the main road was blocked for the first time, and the Muslims refused to allow HVO troops on their way to the BSA front to pass.

On January 13, the 305th and 317th Mountain brigades of the ABiH III Corps, under the command of V. Agic, attacked the HVO forces in Gornji Vakuf. The attack's apparent objective was to test the mettle of the Croat defenders and, if possible, to cut the road to Novi Travnik, thus sealigs central Bosnia off from Herzegovina. The town was defended by elements of the Ante Starcevic Brigade, a unit subordinate to Brigadier Zeljko Siljeg's OZ ,Northwest Herzegovina. There were some three hundred HVO fighters in the town and about two thousand in the surrounding area, reinforced by some seventy HVO military policemen and about 150 men of the PPN "Bruno Busic."

Once the conflict began, a front line was established through the center of town, with the area south of the HVO military police headquarters under Muslim control. Following the initial clashes, the Muslims took positions on the surrounding hills, and the local HVO forces, lacking sufficient manpower to hold a continuous line, established a forty-five-kilometer line of strong points on key terrain facing the Muslims holding the surrounding high ground. Among the key positions the HVO held was the pass on the road between Gornji Vakuf and Prozor. A temporary cease-fire was arranged with UNPROFOR assistance on the afternoon of January 13, and the Croats could again use the road, but there continued to be many problems due to the Muslim checkpoints.

At the time, the OZCB intelligence staff saw the attack on Gornji Vakuf as an isolated "local action" intended to disrupt traffic on the Gornji Vakuf-Novi Travnik road. Only in retrospect was it clear that the Muslims wanted to seal central Bosnia off from Herzegovina and to provoke the HVO into some offensive action to clear their lines of communication, an action that could then be used as a casus belli and proof of Croat perfidy. The fighting around Gornji Vakuf subsequently intensified and assumed even greater significance as the ABiH continued its attempts to secure control of the southern end of the vital Gornji Vakuf-Novi Travnik corridor.

The ABiH Attacks at Kacuni and Busovaca

The two principal objectives of the Muslim probing attacks launched from the villages of Merdani, Lasva, and Dusina in January, 1993, were the village of Kacuni on the important Busovaca-Kiseljak road and the town of Busovaca itself. The intent of the ABiH attackers was to seize Kacuni and thus sever the connection between Kiseljak and the rest of the Croat enclave in central Bosnia. Busovaca was a key Croat political center and controlled the road net west to Vitez and Travnik, east to the Bosna River and thence north to Zenica or south and east to Kakanj, Visoko, and Sarajevo, and southeast to Kiseljak. By taking Busovaca, the ABiH could ensure control of the principal lines of communication in the Lasva, Kozica, and Lepenica Valleys. By definition, a probing attack is one, which, if it encounters only light resistance, can be pressed on to some major goal. In the case of the January, 1993, attack in the Busovaca-Kacuni area, the major goal was to lower Croat morale and divide the Croat enclave in central Bosnia into two segments. In fact, the latter objective was achieved.

The ABiH offensive operation in central Bosnia began on January 19 with the establishment of a checkpoint at Kacuni on the Busovaca-Kiseljak road by elements of the ABiH III Corps.3 This marked the first open clash between the ABiH and the HVO in the area, and, just as the attackers intended, interrupted communications between Busovaca and Kiseljak. Meanwhile, efforts were made to open a road across the Hum-Kula massif leading to the Busovaca-Kacuni area for the purpose of facilitating the "movement of ABiH forces into the contested areas. Elements of ABiH Operations Group (OG) Lasva, under the command of Nehru Ganic, attacked and seized the villages of Lasva and Dusina, and the 333d Mountain Brigade established a line from Lasva through Dusina to Kacuni. In the course of taking control of Dusina, elements of the 2d Battalion, 7th Muslim Motorized Brigade-commanded by Col. Serif Patkovic-massacred a number of Croat soldiers and civilians in the village. They also executed the local Croat commander, Zvonko Rajic, and cut out his heart.4 On January 23-24, elements of the 30lst Mechanized and the 303d, 314th, and 333d Mountain Brigades, supported by part of the 310th Mountain Brigade from the Fojnica area, a battalion of the 7th Muslim Brigade, units of the Mobile Detachment, and a company of military police from the ABiH III Corps, continued the attack from Kacuni toward the village of Bilalovac which was taken thereby linking the ABiH's OG Istok (East) with OG Zapad (West).The villages of Nezirovici, Oseliste, Gusti Grab, and Donje Polje were attacked on January 25-26, and their Croat populations "cleared up.". An accidental result of the Muslim seizure of Kacuni was that the HVO OZCB commander, Col. Tihomir Blaskic, was cut off from his headquarters in Vitez. A native of the Kiseljak area, Blaskic was paying a Sunday visit to his parents when the Busovaca-Kiseljak road was cut at Kacuni. It was some time before he was able to return to his headquarters, so he had to direct operations from the Ban Jelacic Brigade's headquarters in Kiseljak.

Although Muslim-Croat tensions were high, the January attack came as something of a surprise to the HVO soldiers and authorities in the Busovaca area. In December, 1992, armed Muslim refugees from Jajce and the fighting in the Krajina had begun to move into the Busovaca area, and in January, 1993, they were augmented by Muslim troops who had left the front lines against the Serbs and were taking over a building at a time in Busovaca and other towns and villages in the Lasva, Kozica, and Lepenica Valleys. On January 6, the Intelligence Section of the HVO Nikola Subic Zrinski Brigade in Busovaca issued an estimate of Muslim capabilities and intentions that pinpointed ABiH units and noted that they were in position to cut the Busovaca-Kiseljak road at Kacuni, the Busovaca-Vitez road at Ahrnici, and the Busovaca-Zenica road at Grablje.

There were numerous incidents in the Busovaca area in the days immediately preceding the Muslim attack, including the confiscation of weapons and the arrest of Croats by Busovaca Muslim authorities. The ABiH attempted to arrest Ignac Kostroman, a local Bosnian Croat politician on January 22, and two HVO soldiers were killed and barricades were erected by Muslims in Busovaca two days later.5 A sudden exodus of Muslims from Busovaca, many of whom headed to the hospital in Zenica, occurred immediately before the attack on January 25.

Operating from assembly areas in the Merdani-Lasva-Dusina area to the northeast, ABiH forces moved up along the east bank of the Kozica River and launched a probing attack-preceded by heavy and indiscriminate shelling by 82-mm and 120-mm mortars and "Lancers"-on Busovaca itself in the early morning hours of January 25. Some six hundred to seven hundred men from the Nikola Subic Zrinski Brigade's 1st and 2d Battalions defended the town. The Zrinski Brigade was still untried, having just been formed on December 19, 1992, but the HVO troops quickly occupied defensive positions around the town and forestalled a successful attack by the ABiH infantry.

The ABiH Attacks in the Kiseljak-Fojnica-Kresevo Area

Another important objective of the Muslim attackers in January, 1993, was to gain control of the Fojnica junction on the Busovaca-Kiseljak road near Gomionica in order to control access southward to the town of Fojnica, another important Croat stronghold. The Kiseljak-Fojnica-Kresevo area had long been surrounded by ABiH and Territorial Defense forces, and as early as August. 1992, the Muslim-dominated TO staff in Kiseljak had issued instructions for local TO units to prepare for a conflict with the HVO.6 The Muslim's probing attack began in the Kiseljak area at about 6 A.M. on January 25 with a random artillery/mortar attack. The HVO defenders coccupied defensive positions wherever they could, having not prepared any positions in advance. The Muslim forces, including Muslim military police elements, attacked from northeast to southwest across the Busovaca-Kiseljak road, but were stopped by an HVO force consisting of two battalions from the Ban Jelacic Brigade led by an acting commander named Zamenic, reinforced by a company of the HVO 4th Military Police Battalion. Many were wounded during the daylong clash, which ended at about 7 or 8 P.M. The HVO troops were able to improve their positions overnight and counterattacked on January 27, digging in at the end of the day. After five days of fighting, a cease-fire agreement was negotiated and signed. The Muslims attackers thus failed to seize their primary objective, the Fojnica intersection, but they did succeed in gaining control of the villages northeast of the road (Svinjarevo, Behrid, and Gomionica) and established their headquarters in Gomionica, occupying the area with about seven hundred ABiH soldiers. Most Muslim civilians in all of the villages south of Kiseljak and six villages north of the town subsequently left the area, although some remained, hoping the ABiH had sufficient power to protect them in a hotly contested area. Their decision was a fateful one, as the ABiH launched another unsuccessful attack in the heavily defended Gomionica area in April. Thereafter, the struggle in the Kiseljak enclave focused on an ABiH attempt to roll up the HVO positions around Kiseljak from the east and south.

The February-March Pause

With a typical rush to judgment, Lt. Col. Bob Stewart, the UNPROFOR commander in the Lasva Valley, misread the situation on January 25, opining that "both sides were having a go at each other; Croats in Busovaca; Muslims in Kacuni.7 " In fact, it was the Muslims who were “having a go” at the Croats in Kacuni, in Busovaca, and in the Kiseljak area. When all was said and done, the HVO and Croat population in the area paid the heaviest toll for the January fighting: the Croat villages of Nezirovici, Besici, Lasva, Dusina, Gusti Grab, Svinjarevo, Behrici, and Gomionica had been attacked and destroyed or occupied by the ABiH, the vital Busovaca-Kiseljak road had been cut at Kacuni, the southern end of the vital Novi Travnik-Gornji Vakuf line of communication was under attack, and more than forty- four HVO soldiers and Croat civilians had been killed and eighty-two wounded.

The fighting in central Bosnia died down during the last week of January, and a temporary cease-fire was arranged under UNPROFOR and ECMM auspices. However, there continued to be numerous minor incidents as the ABiH consolidated its positions on the heights of the Hum and the Kula overlooking the Busovaca-Kiseljak road, and in the villages of Merdani, Dusina, and Besici. Meanwhile, the HVO, determined not to be surprised again, strengthened its defensive positions in the central Bosnia area and began to monitor ABiH movements more closely. Both sides continued to eye each other warily, and there were frequent violations of the cease-fire agreement as both sides jockeyed for position and advantage.

On January 29, HQ, OZCB, issued a situation report to its subordinate units and higher headquarters noting: "In the course of today the lines of defence have remained unchanged. A 45-kilometer long front has been established. Our defence is positioned and well-entrenched, further entrenchments are being completed, a fire system [i.e.-plan for the employment of artillery and other weapons] has been organised and the situation is under control. The report goes on to note numerous violations of the temporary cease-fire by Muslim units; the excellent morale of HVO fighters and their determination to repel "this brutal aggression"; and the fact that “the BH Army, until yesterday our allies, continued their brutal aggression from the municipalities of Kakanj and Visoko" in the Kiseljak area, and also established a checkpoint in the village of Bilalovac that cut off communications with HVO forces in the village of Jelenov Gaj.

On January 30, 1993, ABiH and HVO leaders met in Vitez under the aegis of UNPROFOR, UNHCR, ICRC, and ECMM personnel to discuss a more permanent cease-fire in the central Bosnia area. Dzemal Merdan, deputy commander of the ABiH III Corps, and Franjo Nakic, the OZCB chief of staff, agreed to a cease-fire to begin at 8 A.M., January 31. In his report to the OZCB commander, Colonel Blaskic, who was isolated in Kiseljak, Nakic noted that Colonel Stewart had stated during the meeting that "he did not blame any side for the violation of the cease-fire [that is, the temporary cease-fire arranged earlier], but the reports he received indicated that it was the HVO who were the ones who started it." Nakic also noted the rather one-sided comments at the meeting by the ECMM representative, Jeremy Fleming, who "was full of praise for the 3rd Corps Command," even stating that "They are doing great things for peace." It seems clear that both the UNPROFOR and the ECMM had already made up their minds-on the basis of who knows what information-to charge the HVO with initiating the January fighting in central Bosnia. However, under cross-examination in the Blaskic trial, Colonel Stewart confirmed that he had visited the ABiH III Corps headquarters in Zenica on January 25, 1993, and complained to its commander, Enver Hadzihasanovic, that the Muslims had started the conflict then raging in central Bosnia.8

The cease-fire arranged by UNPROFOR went into effect at the agreed upon time, and the situation in the Lasva-Kozica-Lepenica area returned to a semblance of calm as commanders of both HVO and ABiH units sought to enforce the cease-fire and prepare their troops for the next round of the conflict. In early February, international attention focused on Srebrenica and the continuing siege of Sarajevo. Meanwhile, central Bosnia remained relatively peaceful throughout the winter months of February and March as the ABiH assessed the results of its January probing attacks and prepared to launch a full-scale offensive against the HVO in the spring. For its part, the HVO, now alerted to the danger posed by its perfidious ally, began to make its own preparations for defending the Croat population and key facilities in central Bosnia.

On February 1, the commander of UNPROFOR in Bosnia-Herzegovina, French general Philippe Morillon, hosted talks at the Bila school base of the British UNPROFOR battalion attended by Enver Hadzihasanovic, the ABiH III Corps commander, Tihomir Blaskic, the commander of the HVO OZCB, and others to discuss implementing the cease-fire and the withdrawal of external forces from the Busovaca-Kacuni area. It was agreed that all such forces should be removed no later than 1 P.M. the next day, and that all routes in the area-particularly the Vitez-Zenica and Kiseljak-Visoko roads-should be opened immediately, with the main barricade blocking the Vitez-Zenica road to be removed by 2 P.M., February 2.

On February 11, the HVO Main Staff issued orders announcing a joint agreement between the chief of the ABiH General Staff, Sefer Halilovic, and the chief of the HVO Main Staff, Milivoj Petkovic, to prevent further "disagreements and conflicts" between the ABiH and the HVO, and "to organise a joint struggle against the aggressor [the BSA]." The same order directed the HVO OZCB commander and the ABiH III Corps commander to create a joint commission composed of HVO and ABiH officers, the purpose of which was to supervise and coordinate efforts to minimize Muslim-Croat conflict in the central Bosnia area. The joint commission was to oversee implementation of the cease-fire agreement with respect to the withdrawal of forces, the removal of barricades, the filling in of trenches and bunkers, and the opening of roads to all traffic, as well as the release of detainees and the investigation of incidents should they arise. The existing ABiH-HVO coordinating teams in Gornji Vakuf and Mostar were instructed to carry out the same actions prescribed for the joint commission in central Bosnia, and all commanders were ordered to ensure that lines of communication in their area of responsibility were open and functioning normally.

The HVO OZCB commander and the ABiH III Corps commander subsequently issued orders implementing the joint agreement of the HVO and ABiH chiefs of staff. A series of joint orders issued by the two commanders on February 13 from Kakanj referred to the joint agreement and ordered the withdrawal of units from forward positions by the fourteenth; the opening of roads by the fifteenth; the filling in of trenches and bunkers sited against the HVO by the twentieth; the establishment of coordinated check- points and roadblocks with a view to the eventual establishment of joint checkpoints; and the establishment of the joint commission to control and investigate incidents.

Despite the cease-fire and occasional cooperation with the ABiH in the defense against the Serbs, the HVO forces remained wary and prepared for a resumption of open conflict with the Muslims in central Bosnia. On February 4, Colonel Blaskic issued orders instructing subordinate commanders to strengthen security and control crime, desertion, and unsatisfactory duty performance by HVO personnel, and also directed that the Operative Zone's logistics system be reorganized. On February 13, he issued orders to increase security and prepare defensive positions in anticipation of a possible resumption of hostilities with the Muslims. The measures to be taken immediately and completed by February 21 included the preparation of defensive bunkers; the registration and assignment of all conscripts; shooting tests for all civilian and military police units and their formation into operative groups and intervention platoons; additional training and live-fire practice for snipers; control of unidentified individuals moving about the defense lines; the distribution of humanitarian aid to the Croat population; the continued assessment of the situation in cooperation with HVO civilian authorities; increased security and intelligence-gathering activities; and the definition of combat assignments for all Croatian personnel in the region.

The OZCB commander's attention also turned to dealing with an increasing number of troublesome incidents of violence by HVO personnel occasioned by the chaotic conditions and the large number of armed men in rear areas. On February 2, an HVO 4th Military Police Battalion investigative team reported on an incident that occurred between 9:30 and 10 P.M., February 1, in which three explosive devices were thrown at the intersection of the main Travnik-Vitez road near the Impregnacija Company's administration building and the house of Djevad Mujanovic. The powerful explosions broke windows in the neighborhood and made a hole in the roof of Mujanovic's garage. The perpetrators were not identified, but they may have been Croats. On February 6, the OZCB commander reminded his subordinate commanders of their duty to carry out earlier orders regarding the suppression of incidents involving murder, the disturbance of public order and peace, threats with firearms, indiscriminate firing in public places, and similar unauthorized actions by HVO personnel. Nevertheless, on February 10, a Bosnian Croat from Novi Travnik, Zoran Jukic, was killed by HVO military policemen while resisting arrest after stabbing a Muslim named Sarajlija in the Kod Dure Cafe in Novi Thavnik. Another bombing incident occurred at 6:10 P.M. on March 15 in front of the Maks store in downtown Vitez. A few nearby cars were damaged, several persons were slightly wounded, and one seriously injured person was taken to the hospital in Travnik. On March 1, the HVO SIS office in Vitez issued an extensive report on the criminal activities of various Croat criminals active in the Travnik, Novi Travnik, Vitez, and Busovaca area. The list included Zarko "Zuti" Andric, the military police chief in Travnik, and Ferdo Gazibaric and Pero "Klempo" Krizanac, both of whom were also from the Travnik area. Additional instructions regarding the treatment of HVO personnel engaged in criminal and destructive conduct were issued on March 17 and disseminated to battalion level. The measures prescribed to suppress such activity included disarming and removing the uniforms of HVO personnel found committing such acts, as well as their arrest and subjection to disciplinary action.

The Muslims initiated a number of serious incidents and cease-fire violations. On February 4, Lieutenant Colonel Stewart travelled to Katici and Merdani to investigate and stop a fight there at the request of Dario Kordic, the HVO political leader in Busovaca. At 9:30 A.M. on February 6, members of the ABiH and Muslim Armed Forces (MOS) arrested seven HVO soldiers in Kruscica. Among those making the arrest were an ABiH soldier from Kruscica and three MOS members from Vranjska. The seven HVO soldiers were questioned about HVO positions in Ribnjak and Lovac and released unharmed at 7 P.M. the same day, although their insignia and personal documents were not returned to them. On March 13, the commander of the HVO N. S. Zrinski Brigade in Busovaca issued a letter of protest addressed to the ECMM, the nearby Dutch-Belgian UNPROFOR transport battalion, and HQ, OZCB, claiming that the cease-fire had been broken at 8:40 P.M. on March 12 by an ABiH M48 tank that had fired its machine gun on HVO positions in the village of Kula.

On the evening of March 16, two HVO soldiers from Travnik were killed at an HVO checkpoint in the village of Dolac on the main Thavnik-Vitez road. The soldiers, Zoran Matosevic and Ivo Juric, attempted to halt a Lada automobile. The four occupants, probably mujahideen, were heavily armed and got out of the car with their weapons. An argument ensued, and a brief fire fight erupted during which Matosevic and Juric were killed and their weapons taken by the car's occupants. Earlier that evening, the same car drove through an HVO checkpoint at Ovnak and its occupants made threatening gestures with their automatic weapons at the personnel manning the HVO checkpoint. A similar incident occurred at 9:40 P.M. on March 28 at an HVO VP checkpoint in the village of Cajdras. Two HVO VPs attached to the Jure Francetic Brigade, Bernard Kovacevic and Ivan Laus, were murdered, apparently by members of the ABiH 7th Muslim Motorized Brigade. Two weeks earlier, on March 15, a group of Muslims led by Ferhet Haskic stopped and searched people traveling to Donja Veceriska. A tractor belonging to an unknown person-presumably a Croat from Novi Bila-was stopped, the owner mistreated, and the tractor's tires punctured. Haskic was also suspected of throwing an explosive device in the front of the HVO headquarters in Donja Veceriska at 12:55 A.M. on March 16th. The ABiH VPs subsequently helped HVO authorities apprehend Haskic.

The only major violation of the January cease-fire in central Bosnia occurred in mid-March, when the ABiH IV Corps's 1st Operational Group attacked north along the Neretvica River toward Fojnica with the objective of seizing control of some twenty Croat villages in the Neretvica Valley and linking up with the ABiH OG Bosanska-Krajina, thereby joining the ABiH III and IV Corps. The attack stalled before reaching the Fojnica area, and Croat residents expelled from the area fled to areas still under HVO control-some toward Kiseljak and some toward Herzegovina. A description of this attack as well as an agreement between the ABiH and RBiH Ministry of the Interior regarding military operations against the HVO was issued March 20.

The Muslim-Croat cease-fire in central Bosnia held through the first weeks of April despite numerous minor incidents, endemic lawlessness, and the organized ABiH offensive in the Neretvica Valley aimed at Fojnica. Although apparently random and probably initiated by extremist individuals or lower-level commanders, some of the more serious incidents suggest a pattern of intelligence gathering by the ABiH, the clandestine movement of Muslim forces throughout the region, and provocations by mujahideen and other Muslim extremists, all of which may have been continuations of the probing action initiated by the ABiH III Corps in January and preparation for the all-out Muslim offensive that began on April 15-16, 1993.

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1 The refugees were used first to fill vacancies in existing ABiH units and then to form new units (Zeko conversation, Aug 27, 1999). The positioning of ABiH units in early January 1993, is depicted on a captured ABiH map entitled “Obostrani Raspored Snaga u zoni 3. korpusa kraj decembra 1992. g-januar 1993. god, “ KC d189/1. The map clearly depicts the locations of the 325th, 333d and 309th Mountain Brigade and elements of the 7th Muslim Motorized Brigade, and shows that their orientation is toward the HVO rather than the BSA.
2 Zeko, Kordic-Cerkez trial testimony, Sept 21, 1998.
3 According to the former OZCB chief of staff, Brigadier Franjo Nakic, seventeen to thirty ABiH troops established the checkpoint at Kacuni with the aim of controlling an eleven-kilometer stretch of the main supply route between Busovaca and Kiseljak (Kordic-Cerkez trial testimony, Apr. 13, 2000).
4 HQ, Jure Francetic Brigade, Zenica, Jan. 27, 1993, subj: Report, KC d209/1; Col. Serif Patkovic, Blaskic trial testimony, June 10, 1999. Patkovic commanded the TO in Zenica and then the 2d Batallion, 7th Muslim Motorized Brigade. He subsequently served as the 7th Muslim Brigade chief of staff before assuming command of the brigade in April, 1994. Neither Patkovic nor Koricic has been indicted by the ICTY for their war crimes in Dusina and elsewhere.
5 Stewart diary, Sunday, Jan. 24, 1993, 3, 7.
6 Zeko, Blaskic trial testimony, Sept. 21, 1998 concerning an Aug. 5, 1992 document issued by Kiseljak’s Municipal Defense Staff related to the conduct of reconnaissance, collection of information, and preparation for combat operations to seize the key lines of communications in the area (B D 185). In that same trial session, Zeko also referred to an even earlier document from the Kiseljak TO staff regarding the preparation of units for an attack (May 22, 1992, B D184), The HVO in Kiseljak had been successful in taking over most of the facilities and weapons left behind by the withdrawing JNA, and Muslim officials in the Kiseljak area were much chagrined (O’Ballance, Civil War in Bosnia, 49)
7 Stewart diary, Monday, Jan. 25, 1993, sec. 3, 8. Stewart's judgments were often admittedly presumptive. For example, in his diary entry for Friday, January 22, 1993, he notes that while en route back to Vitez from Gornji Vakuf, we "noticed that many of the houses in the village of Bistrica were ablaze. We presumed it was HVO ethnic cleansing" (ibid., 3, 6; emphasis added)
8 Stewart, Blaskic trial testimony, June 17, 1999.

 

Source: HercegBosna.org

Prelude to Civil War in Central Bosnia

Written 08.12.2009. 11:23
The fall of Jajce to the Bosnian Serb army on October 29, 1992, marked the beginning of open conflict between the Muslims and Croats in central Bosnia. Until that time, the two communities had maintained an uneasy alliance against the BSA, but the tension between them grew during the course of 1991-92. The HVO and ABiH squabbled over the distribution of arms seized from the JNA, and there were numerous local incidents of violence by one group against the other. However, only in the last quarter of 1992 did Muslim-Croat disagreements begin to rise to the level of civil war.

In January, 1993, the building animosity transformed into open conflict as the ABiH, strengthened by large numbers ofMuslim refugees and the arrival of the mujahideen, mounted a probing attack against their HVO allies. Muslim extremists, abetted by the Izetbegovic government and fervent nationalists within the ABiH, planned and initiated offensive action against their erstwhile ally in the hope of securing control of the key military industries and lines of communication in central Bosnia ang clearing the region for the resettlement of the thousands of Muslims displaced by the fighting against the BSA elsewhere in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

There is, of course, no "smoking gun" - no operations plan or policy decision document that proves beyond a doubt the ABiH planned and carried out an attack on the Croatian enclaves in central Bosnia with such objectives. The time and place at which the plan was approved, and who proposed and who approved it, remain unknown. Did a written document outlining the plan ever exist? Probably. Does a copy of that document still exist? Probably deep in the ABiH's archives. Will it ever be produced for public scrutiny? Probably not - for rather obvious reasons. On the other hand, neither does such clear evidence exist to support the oft-repeated hypothesis of journalists, UNPROFOR and ECMMpersonnel, and Muslim propagandists that the HVO planned and carried out such an offensive against the Muslims. The answer to the key question of who planned and initiated the conflict between Muslims and Croats in central Bosnia can only be determined by carefully evaluating the thousands of fragments of evidence and fitting them into a coherent pattern showing means, motive, and opportunity in the same way a detective arrives at a viable reconstruction of a crime. The process is tedious, but it produces reliable results. When applied to the events in central Bosnia between November, 1992, and March, 1994, it leads to just one conclusion: only the ABiH had the necessary means, motive, and opportunity; it was, in fact, the ABiH, not the HVO, that developed a strategic offensive plan and attempted to carry it out.

HVO-ABiH Cooperation in the Battle against the Serbs

At the beginning of the conflict with the Bosnian Serbs, the HVO attempted to strengthen coordination in the Muslim and Croat alliance. In mid-April, 1992, the HVO requested that RBiH president Alija Izetbegovic create a joint military headquarters to govern both the HVO and the Muslim-led Territorial Defense forces, but Izetbegovic ignored the request and the issue was never put on the agenda of any meeting of the RBiH Presidency, despite repeated pleas from Croat members of the Presidency. Efforts to improve coordination at the local level also met with Muslim indifference and obstruction. In central Bosnia, the HVO and TO attempted to form a joint military unit to defend against the BSA onslaught. In early 1992, the Vitez Municipality Crisis Staff proposed the establishment of a joint Vitez Brigade made up of a battalion from the HVO and one from the TO. A Croat, Franjo Nakic, would serve as commander, and a Muslim, Sefkija Didic, would be both deputy commander and chief of staff. The rest of the staff would be composed of both HVO and TO officers. However, the Muslims' foot- dragging and quibbling regarding the proposed brigade antagonized the Croats, who increasingly left the Territorial Defense forces for the HVO, which was farther along in its preparations to defend against the Serbs.

Nevertheless, by mid-1992, the hastily assembled and armed HVO and TO forces, with some assistance from the Croatian armed forces, managed to establish a defensive line against the more numerous and much better equipped Bosnian Serb army. However, the BSA had surrounded Sarajevo, the RBiH capital, and the scratch Muslim and Croat forces faced the superior Serb forces on several fronts ringing the newly declared state. The co-operating HVO and Muslim forces faced significant BSA threats in both eastern and western Herzegovina, and a predominantly Muslim army struggled to retain control of several eastern Bosnia towns invested by the BSA. Of principal concern to the commanders of the HVO OZCB and the ABiH III Corps in central Bosnia were an eastern front running from Hadzici north to the Visoko-llijas area; a northern front in the Maglaj-Doboj-Teslic-Tesanj area; and a western front in the area extending from Jajce southward to Donji Vakuf and Bugojno. In all three areas, the RBiH's HVO and Muslim forces struggled to hold back the BSA advance.

The Growth of Muslim-Croat Hostility, March, 1992-January, 1993

Tensions between Muslims and Croats increased steadily throughout the course of 1992 as the two sides vied for political power in the various municipalities in central Bosnia; squabbled over the division of the spoils left by the JNA, which abandoned Bosnia-Herzegovina in May, 1992; sought to gain control over key localities and facilities; and acted to protect their communities from all comers. Despite growing tensions and a number of armed confrontations, the HVO and ABiH continued to cooperate in the defense against the Bosnian Serbs backed by the rump Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) and the remnants of the JNA. However, three essentially unrelated incidents in late October-just before Jajce fell to the BSA - signalled the coming conflict: the Novi Travnik gas station incident, the assassination of the HVO commander in Travnik, and the Muslim roadblock at Ahmici. These incidents led to a flare-up of small-scale Muslim-Croat fighting throughout the region that was tamped down by an UNPROFOR arranged cease-fire. Tensions and incidents increased substantially following Jajce's fall and the consequent influx of Muslim refugees, many of them armed, into the Lasva-Kozica-Lepenica region. At the same time, the mujahideen presence in central Bosnia began to make itself felt, and the ABiH began to infiltrate armed cadres into the villages and to position regular ABiH units in the Lasva-Kozica-Lepenica valley in preparation for the planned offensive.

Following numerous Muslim-Croat disagreements and confrontations in the Busovaca area, HVO authorities took over the Busovaca municipal government on May 10, blockading the town, demanding the surrender of weapons by the Muslim-dominated TO units, issuing arrest warrants for prominent Muslims, guaranteeing the security and eventual evacuation of JNA elements from the Kaonik area, and mobilizing the Croats in the town. Moreover, the Croat authorities announced that the Busovaca HVO would take over all JNA weapons, equipment, and barracks in the local area. The Muslim-led Bosnian government was incensed by the Croats' seizure of control in Busovaca and on May 12 openly condemned the HVO authorities for not handing control of the town over to the central government on demand.

The tensions in the Busovaca area were intensified by the Muslim failure to hold to the agreed upon plan for the distribution of arms from the former JNA arsenal in the area. Several similar incidents occurred elsewhere, resulting in small fights between Muslims and Croats over the distribution of the spoils resulting from the JNA's withdrawal. There was a Muslim-Croat confrontation at the Bratstvo armaments factory in Novi Travnik on June 18 when HVO elements attempted to prevent Bosnia-Herzegovina's Muslim-led government from removing from the factory arms the government intended to sell abroad. Two months later in August, HVO and Territorial Defense elements forced the turnover of the JNA arsenal at Slimena in Travnik. The arsenal had been mined by the JNA, and while the HVO tried to negotiate a surrender and the removal of the mines, TO elements broke into the factory and exploded them. In the aftermath of the debacle, the TO soldiers gathered up undamaged weapons parts, which they subse-quently reassembled to make whole weapons. One result of the consequent increase in the numbers of weapons in Muslim hands was an increase in confrontations in the area.

Representatives of the various Croat communities in central Bosnia met in Busovaca on September 22 to discuss the situation, particularly the growing tensions between Muslims and Croats resulting from one municipality or the other coming under the exclusive control of either Muslim or Bosnian Croat authorities. The conferees enumerated a number of general observations regarding the situation throughout the region. They noted in particular the need to revive the local economy and speed up preparations for winter in case they were totally cut off from Herzegovina and Croatia. They called for better coordination between HVO military and civilian authorities and uniformity of policy. Complaints were also made regarding the behavior of Muslims who acted ''as if they have an exclusive right to power in B and H and as if they are the only fighters for B and H," and regarding Muslim attempts to enforce their policies through the use of Croatian Defense Forces (HOS) elements. Special concern was aniculated regarding the daily arrival of new Muslim refugees in the area, as well as the increasing , presence of Muslim forces in the various towns while HVO forces were busy holding the lines against the BSA and HVO military authorities were being urged to prepare defense plans in case of confrontations with the Muslims.

In mid-October, three apparently unrelated incidents led to open fighting between Muslims and Croats in central Bosnia. The first of these occurred in the town of Novi Travnik on October 18, and involved a dispute that began at a gas station near HVO headquarters. By mutual agreement, Muslims and Croats were sharing the region's fuel supplies. The conflict apparently broke out when Croats manning the gas station in Novi Travnik refused to provide gasoline to a Muslim Territorial Defense soldier. A squabble began, the Muslim was shot dead, and within minutes HVO and TO forces in Novi Travnik were engaged in a full-scale firefight in the town center. The fighting, led by Refik Lendo on the Muslim side, continued for several days despite the efforts of British UNPROFOR officers to bring it to a halt.

News of the fighting in Novi Travnik spread quickly throughout the region. Both Muslims and Croats erected roadblocks, mobilized local defense forces, and in some areas fired upon each other. Even so, the conflict rermained localized and uncoordinated, the Muslim and Croat forces in each town and village acting according to their own often faulty assessment of the situation. However, the situation worsened two days later when the commander of the HVO brigade in Travnik, Ivica Stojak, was assassinated on October 20 by mujahideen near Medresa, apparently on the orders of Col. Asim Koricic, commander of the 7th Muslim Motorized Brigade.1 From about the time Jajce fell, the newly arrived mujahideen had begun to appear in the Travnik area, and the number of small incidents between Muslims and Croats had risen substantially. Nevertheless, Stojak's assassination may have been personal rather than part of some larger Muslim plot against the HVO in Travnik.

Perhaps the most serious incident of the October outburst was the establishment of a roadblock by Muslim TO forces near the village of Ahmici on the main road through the Lasva Valley. The roadblock was established on October 20, and the TO forces manning it refused to let HVO forces en route to the defense of Jajce pass.2 The TO commander in the Ahmici area, Nijaz Sivro, was young and inexperienced, as was his deputy, Muniz Ahmic. Sivro had gone to the front lines against the Serbs in Visoko just before the roadblock at Ahmici was set up, and Ahmic was entrusted with the task of establishing the roadblock by the "Coordinating Committee for the Protection of Muslims." One Muslim officer characterized the setting up of the barricade as "ill-prepared and disorganized," and the initial confrontation at the Ahmici roadblock resulted in one Muslim soldier killed and several wounded. 'Two days later, October 22, the roadblock was removed without a fight, and HVO forces could again use the Lasva Valley road for mo ing troops to the Serb front. During the course of the altercation, the Muslim TO commander in Vitez told the UNPROFOR's Lt. Cot. Bob Stewart that Muslims had established the roadblock at Ahmici to prevent the HVO from reinforcing their forces then fighting in Novi Travnik. In fact, the establishment of the roadblock had been ordered by the ABiH zone headquarters in Zenica (later HQ, III Corps). 3

After several days of fighting and almost fifty casualties in the Lasva region, officers of the British UNPROFOR unit managed to negotiate a ceasefire on October 21 in the Vitez area that was then extended to Novi Travnik and the rest of the region. The Muslirn-Croat fighting had been widespread, but it appears to have been spontaneous rather than the result of a coordinated action by either side. Although a planned provocation by the Muslims, in and of itself the October 20 roadblock at Ahmici was a minor event. As far as the HVO authorities at the time were concerned, it was not a serious incident. It took on much greater significance, however, after HVO forces assaulted the village on April 16, 1993. Those who wished to portray the HVO as the aggressor in the Muslim-Croat conflict in central Bosnia have painted the October incident as a cause of the April, 1993 events, although the only real connection between the two is that they occurred in approximately the same location: the point at which the village of Ahmici touches the Vitez-Busovaca road at the narrowest part of the Lasva Valley.

One historian has characterized the period from January, 1992, up to the outbreak of Muslim-Croat hostilities in late January, 1993, as one in which "there was some 'pushing and shoving' between Croats and Muslims, and a lack of wholehearted cooperation as each group sought to stabilise and strengthen its own territory."4 Indeed, one can point to numerous small-scale local confrontations between Muslims and Croats in central Bosnia during the course of 1992 designed to gain control over stockpiles of arms, munitions, and other military supplies; to gain control of key facilities or lines of communications; and to test the other side's will and capabilities to resist. Such incidents increased in frequency and intensity after Jajce fell on October 29, 1992, but they do not appear to have been part of a coordinated plan by either party. Indeed, they appear to be random, unconnected, and short-lived episodes resulting from the increasing level of tension and distrust between the two communities in central Bosnia. Even the build up of Muslim forces, the infiltration of armed ABiH soldiers and mujahideen into key villages and towns, and the suggestive positioning of ABiH units in central Bosnia went largely unnoticed by the HVO at the time.5 Only in retrospect do they appear to be part of a pattern of actions taken by the ABiH to prepare for the opening of an all-out Muslim offensive against the Croatian community in the Lasva-Kozica-Lepenica region.

The ABiH Strategic Offensive Plan

Although its author and the date of its creation remain uncertain, events clearly reveal the existence of an ABiH strategic offensive against the HVO in central Bosnia that began in mid-January, 1993, and continued in several phases until the signing of the Washington Agreements in late February, 1994. The strategic objectives of the plan were:

1. To gain control of the north-south lines of communication (LOCs) passing through the Bosnian Croat enclave in central Bosnia, thereby linking the ABiH forces north of the Lasva-Kozica-Lepenica Valleys with those to the south and securing the Muslim lines of communication to the outside world.
2. To gain control of the military industrial facilities in central Bosnia (the SPS explosives factory in Vitez and factories in Travnik and Novi Travnik) or on its periphery (factories in Bugojno, Gomji Vakuf, Prozor, Jablanica, Konjic, and Hadzici, among others) so as to facilitate the arming of the ABiH in the war against the Serbs.
3. To surround the Bosnian Croat enclave in central Bosnia and divide it into smaller pieces that could then be eliminated seriatim, thereby clearing the Croats from central Bosnia and providing a place for Muslim refugees expelled by the Serbs from other areas to settle.

Achieving the third objective would also ensure that the Muslims retained political control of central Bosnia so they could continue to dominate the RBiH's central government. There was probably also an anticipation of a peace agreement that would result in a partition of Bosnia-Herzegovina among the Serbs, Muslims, and Croats, in which case possession of the Lasva-Kozica-Lepenica region would probably be tantamount to its inclusion in the Muslim area under any settlement, regardless of the area's former ethnic composition, a principle that was observed subsequently in areas seized by the Serbs. In fact, the area in question was part of Canton 10 , under the Vance-Owen Peace Plan and was assigned to the Croats, but at the time the Muslim offensive plan was devised and set in motion the issue was still undecided.6 In any event, occupation by the ABiH of the Lasva-Kozica-Lepenica region would probably be cause for revision of the VOPP. In a larger and less sinister context, the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina's infant central government may simply have been eager to exert its authority over such territory as had not already been taken by the Bosnian Serbs. It should also be noted that the Croat enclaves in northern Bosnia posed no threat politically or militarily to the Muslim-led government and were useful for propaganda purposes to show the multiethnic composition and co-operation in the Muslim-led RBiH.

Such a complex and far-reaching plan could only have been worked out in the ABiH General Staff under the direction of Chief of Staff Sefer Halilovic, and further elaborated in Enver Hadzihasanovic's III Corps headquarters. Only they had the resources and expertise to prepare such a plan, and there are some indications that they had considered such a plan much earlier. By the time Jajce fell at the end of October, 1992, the ABiH's logistical situation was near collapse. The Izetbegovic government had failed to induce the United Nations to cancel its arms embargo or to intervene militarily, and, despite Chief of Staff Halilovic's persistent entreaties, had done little to mobilize the Bosnian economy for war. Too weak to seize the arms and equipment it needed from the far more powerful Bosnian Serb army, the ABiH still had sufficient strength to overpower its erstwhile ally, the HVO-at least in the central Bosnia area. Success in such an endeavor would solve two of the most pressing logistical problems. First, it would provide an immediate gain in arms and other equipment, which could be quickly turned against the Serbs. Second, it would open the ABiH's lines of communications through central Bosnia, thereby facilitating the more effective deployment of available ABiH troops, armaments, and supplies, as well as the importation of arms, ammunition, and other vital supplies obtained on the international arms market. Moreover, General Halilovic's associates on the ABiH General Staff had long since identified Kiseljak, Busovaca, Vitez, and Vares as the site for refugee settlements. In the summer of 1992, two of Halilovic's subordinates, Rifat Bilajac and Zicro Suljevic, attended a meeting at SDA headquarters in Sarajevo to discuss the refugee situation. Halilovic relates that they returned to the headquarters infuriated, Bilajac stating angrily:I was informed about everything in the SDA headquarters. There were some 10-12 members of the executive committee present, and when I suggested that refugee settlements should be built in Kiseljak, Busovaca, Vitez and Vares, Behmen tells me nicely: 'It can't be there, as that's Croat national territory.' The other members were silent. Then we quarreled and left the meeting. Well, what are we dying for if this is Croat national territory?"7

As to the question of when such a plan might have been conceived, it is important to note that the ABiH III Corps first openly attacked HVO forces in the Lasva Valley in late January, 1993. A significant amount of time, probably not less than two months, would have been required to assemble and prepare the forces necessary for an offensive on the scale of the January attacks. Thus, the basic plan needed to have been completed no later than November 1, 1992, suggesting that the necessary planning was already in progress even before Jajce fell. It seems likely, therefore, that the concept of the ABiH strategic offensive against the HVO in central Bosnia was developed in the late summer or early fall of 1992 and that the “go-no go" decision was probably made in early November-soon after the fall of Jajce.

The HVO Reaction

While the ABiH was clearly the aggressor in the Muslim-Croat civil war in central Bosnia, the HVO commanders did not sit idly by waiting to be overrun by their more numerous Muslim opponents. Instead they adopted what is known in U.S. military parlance as an "active defense” that is, a defense in which the defender actively and continuously seeks to improve his defensive posture by seizing and controlling key terrain and lines of communication, degrading the enemy's offensive capabilities, and acting aggressively to spoil enemy attacks and keep the enemy off balance.8 To an observer on the ground who did not understand the overall strategic situation-particularly one prone to rash judgments and broad inferences-the HVO's conduct of the active defense might well appear to have been offensive in nature. Yet, the fact is, it was largely reactive and preventive.

Thus, from an HVO perspective the strategic battle was entirely a defensive one, albeit marked by selective use of preemptive spoiling attacks (pre- ventivi), counterattacks, and other offensive actions designed to support the Croat defensive strategy by the conduct of an “active defense" rather than a purely positional defense in the Lasva-Kozica-Lepenica Valleys. Surrounded, heavily outnumbered (by as much as eight or ten to one according to some accounts), and logistically bankrupt, it would have been com- pletely illogical for the Croats to try to mount a systematic campaign to expand the enclave or to ethnically cleanse Muslims from the Lasva Valley, much less from all of the proposed Canton 10. One former HVO officer has said that an HVO commander would have had to be "insane” to have contemplated an offensive against the Muslims given their tenuous manpower, logistics, and full deployment against the Serbs.9 They were barely able to repel the repeated Muslim attacks and were certainly too weak in numbers, arms, and ammunition to attempt a major offensive. Nevertheless, the hard-pressed HVO forces did manage to mount a number of small offensive actions to secure better defensive positions, prevent the Muslims from obtaining their objectives, and to clear their rear areas of troublesome Muslim enclaves. Generally, a clear military necessity can be shown for each of those offensive actions. More commonly, the HVO forces simply took up defensive positions and repelled a series of increasingly heavy Muslim attacks that inexorably whittled away the territory held by the HVO, inflicted casualties, and slowly asphyxiated the Bosnian Croat defenders.

________________________________

1 Ljubas, Kordic-Cerkez trial testimony, May 16, 2000; Filipovic, Kordic-Cerkez trial testimony, Apr 11, 2000.
2 Zeko, Blaskic trial testimony, Sept. 11, 1998.
3 Maj. Sulejman Kalco, Kodic-Cerkez trial testimony, Mar. 7, 2000. Kalco was deputy commander of the Muslim forces in Stari Vitez in 1993. He later retired from the Federation Army.
4 O’Ballance, Civil War in Bosnia, 48
5 Major Zeko, the HQ, OZCB, intelligence officer at the time, noted that although he mentioned to his superiors several times the growing disadvantage of the HVO position in the area due to Muslim infiltration and the positioning of ABiH forces to the rear of HVO units defending the front against the Serbs, there did not appear to be any urgent reaction on the part of the HVO leadership (conversation with author, Split, Aug. 17, 1999)
6 The Vance-Owen Peace Plan canton map was not agreed upon until January 10-12, 1993.
8 Halilovic, Lukava Strategija, 78. See also the comments of journalist Ed Vulliamy regarding the "grand scheme" of Mehmed Alagic, a senior ABiH commander in central Bosnia, for "consolidation of the Muslim triangle in central Bosnia" (Seasons in Hell, 257-58)
8 U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Pub 1-02, 3, defines "active defense" as: "The employment of limited offensive action and counterattacks to deny a contested area or position to the enemy". Indeed, the former commander of OZ Northwest Herzegovina used the term exactly in its American sense to describe the series of small counterattacks and other offensive actions taken by the HVO in the Lasva-Kozica-Lepenica Valleys and elsewhere (Maj. Gen. Zeljko Siljeg, conversation with author, Medjugorje, Aug. 23, 1999)
9 Zeko conversation, Aug. 27, 1999.
 

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