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Friday, 3 August, 2001, 12:30 GMT 13:30 UK
Flashback: Struggle to defend Bosnia
Bosnian woman sits in a graveyard
The Bosnian war was Europe's deadliest in a generation
By central Europe reporter Nick Thorpe

Few details are available as to the charges against the three Muslim-led Bosnian army officers who were arrested on Tuesday after the Hague tribunal issued sealed indictments against them.

But what is certain is that the beginning of the war was a confused and difficult time for Bosnians.

Mehmed Alagic
Mehmed Alagic was arrested by Bosnian police
When the war there began in 1992 an army had to be formed rapidly.

With 70% of the country occupied by well-equipped forces loyal to the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, the defence of Bosnia and of its capital, Sarejevo, was initially organised by the police force and by mainly civilian volunteers.

Tensions all around

Throughout the war there were tensions between some police and army units on the Bosnian side.

Enver Hadzihasanovic
General Hadzihasanovic was picked up in Sarajevo
In addition, sometimes there were tensions in the same army between Muslims and Serbs and Croats who remained loyal to the idea of a united Bosnia.

Poor communications also hampered the establishment of a command structure.

Despite such problems the capital and other towns and villages were successfully defended, and gains made on several fronts.

Appeal against atrocities

Outgunned and subject to an international arms embargo, the Bosnian army also succeeded in manufacturing and importing some weapons.

Former Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic
Mr Izetbegovic says he tried to prevent atrocities
In his recently published autobiography, former Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic mentioned several occasions when he appealed to his troops not to respond to war crimes with war crimes.

In one well-documented case in September 1993, 27 Croat civilians were killed by Bosnian soldiers at Grabovica on the river Neretva.

The Bosnian Government handed documents relating to that case to the Hague tribunal after the war.

See also:

02 Aug 01 | Europe
General guilty of Bosnia genocide
02 Aug 01 | Europe
Q&A: Srebrenica massacre
20 Feb 01 | Europe
Bosnia war criminals lose appeal
16 Nov 98 | Europe
Three guilty in Bosnia trial
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