US Soldier Kills Serb Politician -
Serbs: 'America Will Pay Dearly'
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (CNN) -- A U.S. peacekeeper shot and killed a Serb political leader in a confrontation as Bosnia plunged into a crisis fueled by a pair of international rulings, NATO said Saturday.
Krsto Micic, vice president of the nationalist Bosnian Serb Radical Party in the town of Ugljevik, died Friday night when he and other angry Serbs attacked U.S. troops serving with the NATO peacekeeping force in Bosnia, a NATO statement said.
The clash came as tensions erupted in the Serb part of Bosnia over two decisions made by a Western envoy: transferring the strategic city of Brcko from exclusive Bosnian Serb control, and firing the hard-line Bosnian Serb leader.
President Nikola Poplasen refused to step down, and the Western-backed prime minister announced he would resign to protest the decision to place Brcko, 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of Sarajevo, under multi-ethnic control.
NATO Peacekeepers attacked
The peacekeepers, who had been alerted to possible trouble, were confronted in a restaurant in Ugljevik where they were coordinating humanitarian support, NATO said. The attackers began breaking glass bottles and punching and shoving the soldiers, who tried to escape.
As they attempted to run to their car, one of the U.S. soldiers was reportedly hit several times on his back and shoulders.
"Fearing for his personal safety, he drew his sidearm pistol and fired two shots at his assailant," said Col. Lee Hockman, the chief spokesman for the international force in Sarajevo. The crowd of Serbs then dispersed and the soldiers returned to their base without further incident.
The U.S. soldier was treated in Tuzla for severe bruises and lacerations, while Micic died a short time later at a local hospital
Micic's party issued a statement in Belgrade saying "bloodthirsty American criminals and terrorists" shot Micic "in cold blood." It added, "American bandits ... will pay dearly for murdering Micic."
The 32,000-strong peacekeeping force in Bosnia includes about 6,900 U.S. troops.
In a separate incident Friday night in the town of Prijedor, a grenade was thrown at a peacekeepers' building and two more were hurled at an international police station there. No injuries or damage were reported, but the staffs at both places were evacuated and a Czech brigade increased patrols in the area, said Maj. Jim Jarvis of NATO.
More turbulence expected
Carlos Westendorp, the West's top peace envoy to Bosnia, on Friday announced the decision to remove Poplasen from office. Westendorp accused Poplasen of obstructing implementation of the Dayton peace accord.
"We are going to have turbulence in the coming days but I hope that with our constant pressure and dialogue we could come to an improvement of the peace implementation process," Westendorp told CNN in an interview broadcast Saturday.
Poplasen, whose election victory in September was widely seen as a setback for the West, had insisted that Serbs retain control of Brcko. He said he did not accept the dismissal, denouncing it as "illegitimate and undemocratic."
Poplasen's efforts to remove the Serbs' pro-Western prime minister, Milorad Dodik, prompted his dismissal.
In a further disappointment for the West, Dodik also said he would step down because of Westendorp's ruling awarding Brcko to all three Bosnian ethnic groups -- Serbs, Croats and Muslims. The Serbs had wanted control of the city of about 90,000, which links the eastern and western parts of their territory.
Separatist Serb forces captured the town early in the three-year Bosnian civil war, killing or expelling the non-Serb population.
Friday's decision was meant to resolve the last major territorial issue left from the conflict, which ended with a peace treaty signed by negotiators in Dayton, Ohio, in 1995.