Gang war claims two victims
Vjeko Sliško, suspected head of a mafia gang, died after a contract killer shot him in a street in the capital, according to the Hina news. He was shot in broad daylight in the centre of Zagreb the previous week.
Sliško was known as the "King of the Slot Machines" and was believed to be running one of Croatia's two main organised crime gangs. This was the fifth attempt on his life; he had survived four previous assassination attempts. Zagreb police say they have mobilised the entire force to find out who ordered the attack, but suspicion falls on the other big gang, whose members are currently standing trial in Zagreb. Sliško had been expected to give evidence.
A passer-by was killed by a hand grenade thrown at Sliško in 1999 on practically the same spot on which he was fatally wounded.
The supposed assassin, James Cappiau, was himself shot seconds later by Sliško's bodyguard and also died in hospital. Cappiau had double (Croat and Belgian) nationality—he had served in the Croatian army during the Serbo-Croat war ten years ago. The bodyguard, Ivica Bertić aka Rus or Russian, has since been arrested. He claimed he had fired in self-defence.
Earlier this week, Interior Minister Sime Lucin said 18 arrests had been made so far, adding that the operation was moving closer to uncovering mafia allies within the political structure, the army, the police and secret services.
Two Bosnias collide
Bosnia's moderate Croats are fighting back against the nationalist parties who declared an independent assembly three weeks ago.
Defence Minister Mijo Anić presided over a ceremony this week, which was meant to mark the rebuilding of the Croat military units disbanded by nationalists earlier this week in a bid for self-rule. The nationalists responded with the claim that almost 8000 Croat soldiers had left their barracks in support of the call, made in protest at the exclusion of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party from the new government of Bosnia's Muslim-Croat federation.
The Sarajevo government responded by sacking some of the generals who had led the mutiny and pledging to reconstitute the contingents to make a united Muslim-Croat army. Croat parallel structures had existed ever since Bosnia's 1992-95 war. Minister Mijo Anić was greeted by an honour guard at the ceremony in Orasje, in the northern Bosnian Posavina region. That is a long way from Mostar where nationalism is stronger. A new commander was appointed to replace the one who joined the revolt.
"I'm glad today that the public can see that Croats in Bosnia, and I believe in the whole of Bosnia and Hercegovina, don't support what somebody wants to impose on them and will not be a cover for the criminal acts which have been done," said Anić.
Lieutenant Tomo Knezević, the new commander of the Fourth Corps in Orasje, said 60 to 70 per cent of the soldiers on duty before the walkout had expressed loyalty to the government. "Now we have a good situation except in one unit within the 2nd Infantry Battalion where pressure on soldiers continued, but I think that we are on the right track and that time will show that we were right," he said.
Neither official gave full details of how many soldiers had joined the mutiny across the country, and it remained unclear whether they would be able to reconstitute the force in hardline Croat parts of central Bosnia and Hercegovina alongside Croatia.
The international community's deputy high representative in Bosnia, Matthias Sonn, said the embryonic Croat separatist administration, launched on 3 March, would not be tolerated. "The international community cannot allow the creation of an unconstitutional, and maybe even criminal, para-state in Bosnia and Hercegovina," Sonn told a news conference.
Restoring naval pride
Croatian President Stipe Mesić christened a rocket artillery war ship, King Dmitar Zvonimir, this week. It had been constructed for the Croatian Navy at the Kraljevica shipyard.
This modern ship, which will raise the level of combat readiness for the defence of the Croatian part of the Adriatic, will be handed over to the Croatian Navy in September, on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of its establishment.
The President expressed his hope that this enterprise of the Kraljevica shipyard would raise interest in home and foreign investors, and encourage them to invest into the shipbuilding industry in which, he said, "Croatia has shown know-how and capability for the realization of projects at the highest level."
And in other news...
- Republika reported that the government has promised to rebuild all houses destroyed in the war by the end of 2002. The money needed will be a boost to the economy and infrastructure in the devastated areas, employing at least 1200 locals.
- Three Croats who spent six years in a Yugoslav prison for espionage return home, reported Večernji list. They received a pardon from President Vojislav Koštunica in exchange for Croatian President's pardon for five Serbs.
- Vjesnik covered the arrest of a criminal gang that was stealing luxury cars, mainly Audi A6 models, from around Croatia and reselling them abroad. In one way this was good news—it is a sign that Croatia's economy is doing well enough to have cars worth stealing to order. No one was in much danger of having their old Zastava Stojedan stolen.
Dan Damon, 30 March 2001
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