Bosnian protesters set ablaze local government buildings in three Bosnian cities on Friday as fury over unemployment and rampant corruption spread across the country in a third day of unrest.
Anti-government protests that began earlier in the week in the northern city of Tuzla continued to spread, with anger over corruption and an unemployment rate near 40 percent sending demonstrators out into the streets of a dozen cities.
Crowds stormed the local government building in Tuzla, throwing furniture, files and papers out of the windows and then setting the building on fire.
Protesters also set local government buildings ablaze in Sarajevo and Zenica, and the building of the Bosnian presidency was also burning. Those fires were promptly put out but almost all the windows were broken.
At least 80 people were injured in Sarajevo and 10 in Zenica, authorities said. There were no immediate casualty figures from Tuzla, scene of the worst of the fighting.
In an unprecedented move, hundreds gathered in the capital of the Bosnian Serb part of the country, Banja Luka, to express support for protesters in the country’s other ministate, which is shared by Bosniaks and Croats.
Support for protests spreading
“We gathered to support the protests in Tuzla where people are fighting for their rights,” said Aleksandar Zolja, an activist from Banja Luka.
The protests began with clashes between police and the unpaid workers of four formerly state-owned companies, which left some some 130 hurt, mostly from teargas.
The four companies employed most of the population of Tuzla. When they were privatised, contracts obliged the new owners to invest in them and make them profitable but they sold the assets instead, stopped paying workers and filed for bankruptcy.
The privatisation that followed the end of communism and the 1992-1995 Bosnian war produced a handful of tycoons, but almost wiped out the middle class and sent the working class into poverty.
Corruption remains widespread and the high taxes that fund a bloated public sector continue to eat away at paychecks.
(FRANCE 24 with AP)
Date created : 2014-02-07