War veterans protesting proposed cuts in state benefits set fire to a regional government building in Bosnia on Wednesday and drove back riot police who tried to disperse them.
The police used tear gas against the more than 5,000 protesters then withdrew, leading the protesters to storm the building, break its windows and set the ground floor on fire.
A small group of policemen was temporarily trapped between the blaze and the furious protesters, but ambulance crews pulled them to safety.
Kosevo Hospital spokeswoman Biljana Jandric said 40 people were treated, mostly for the aftereffects of tear gas.
The veterans had fought in the Bosnian war that pitted the country’s three main ethnic factions — Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks, or Bosnian Muslims — against each other after Bosnia split from what was then Yugoslavia. More than 100,000 people were killed in Europe’s bloodiest conflict since World War II before a peace was brokered in 1995.
The government of the joint Bosniak-Croat federation that now makes up the country along with a Serb republic is trying to cut its spending to meet conditions of a euro1.2 billion ($1.62 billion) loan from the International Monetary Fund.
War veterans now receive the equivalent of between 150 euros and 500 euros a month ($200 to $665), but the government plan would cut that by 10 percent.
The veterans have agreed to accept a small reduction, but demanded that the government save whatever else is needed by making other cuts in the federation’s budget.
Source – Associated Press