Protesters torch Bosnia presidency building

February 08, 2014 - 2:42:20 am

Bosnian policemen try to hold off protesters in their attempt to storm a local government building in Sarajevo yesterday.

SARAJEVO: Protesters set fire to a section of the presidency building in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo yesterday, the third day of violent protests against economic and political stagnation in the Balkan country.

A reporter on the scene said protesters had smashed windows and threw a flare into the building despite special police’s efforts to disperse them with water cannon.

With unemployment at 44 percent and one in five people living below the poverty line, Bosnians have taken to the streets to protest the authorities’ failure to address the economic situation.

As anger spiralled yesterday—the third day of at times violent protests—demonstrators set fire to a government building in the capital Sarajevo and another in the northeastern city of Tuzla.

In Tuzla, thousands of protesters cheered as 100 young men wearing hoods stormed a local administrative building, destroying furniture and throwing televisions out of the windows.

Shortly afterwards, flames and thick smoke could be seen billowing from the first floor windows. In Sarajevo, protestors smashed windows and set fire to security posts outside a government building.

Riot police surrounded the building but were unable to gain access, with demonstrators also  blocking two fire engines from reaching the scene.

With demonstrations planned in more than 20 towns and thousands of protesters on the streets of Tusla and Sarajevo on Friday, the protests mark the largest outbreak of public anger in the Balkan country of 3.8 million people since the end of the 1992-1995 war.

The protestors are demanding the resignation of local and regional officials who they blame for two decades of political stalemate that has left the economy in dire straits.

“People protest because they are hungry, because they don’t have jobs. We demand the government resign,” Nihad Karac, a construction worker in his 40s, said. “I am employed, but my salary is ¤250 per month.”

Most protesters blamed politicians for the lack of economic growth in the country.

Nedim Seferovic, who is unemployed, said he had been forced to rely on food handouts for the past five years. “I would like to see them (politicians) live that way. We want an honest government,” said the 28-year-old, decrying politicians’ high salaries.

The protests started on Wednesday in Tuzla, once one of the main industrial hubs in the former Yugoslav republic.

They followed a call by workers who accused the authorities of fraudulently privatising a number of factories once owned by the state. They say salaries have been unpaid for months.

Sakib Kopic, one of the workers’ representatives, said the protests were a “the people’s answer” to the government’s failure to address the ongoing economic decline.

More than 130 people were injured in clashes between police and protesters in the city on Thursday, and yerserday the city’s schools remained shut for fear of further violence.

Agencies

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