Bosnian War - Course of The War

Course of The War

The Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) officially left Bosnia and Herzegovina on 12 May 1992 shortly after independence was declared in April 1992. However, most of the command chain, weaponry, and higher-ranked military personnel, including general Ratko Mladić, remained in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Army of Republika Srpska (Vojska Republike Srpske, VRS) as the armed forces of the newly created Bosnian Serb republic. The Croats organized a defensive military formation of their own called the Croatian Defense Council (Hrvatsko Vijeće Obrane, HVO) as the armed forces of Herzeg-Bosnia. The Bosniaks mostly organized into the Army of Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Armija Republike Bosne i Hercegovine, ARBiH) as the armed forces of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Initially, 25% of the ARBiH was composed of non-Bosniaks, especially in the 1st Corps in Sarajevo. Sefer Halilović, the Chief of Staff of the Bosnian Territorial Defense, claimed in June 1992 that his forces were 70% Muslim, 18% Croat and 12% Serb. The percentage of Serb and Croat soldiers in the Bosnian army was particularly high in cities such as Sarajevo, Mostar and Tuzla. The deputy commander of the Bosnian Army's Headquarters, was general Jovan Divjak, the highest-ranking ethnic Serb in the Bosnian Army. General Stjepan Šiber, an ethnic Croat was the second deputy commander. President Izetbegović also appointed colonel Blaž Kraljević, commander of the Croatian Defence Forces in Herzegovina, to be a member of Bosnian Army's Headquarters, seven days before Kraljević's assassination, in order to assemble a multi-ethnic pro-Bosnian defense front. This diversity was to reduce over the course of the war.

Various paramilitary units were operated during the Bosnian War: the Serb "White Eagles" (Beli Orlovi), Arkan's "Tigers", "Serbian Volunteer Guard" (Srpska Dobrovoljačka Garda), Bosnians "Patriotic League" (Patriotska Liga) and "Green Berets" (Zelene Beretke), and Croatian "Croatian Defence Forces" (Hrvatske Obrambene Snage), etc. The Serb and Croat paramilitaries involved volunteers from Serbia and Croatia, and were supported by nationalist political parties in those countries. Allegations exist about the involvement of the Serbian and Croatian secret police in the conflict. Forces of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina were divided in 5 corps'. 1st Corps operated in the region of Sarajevo and Gorazde while a stronger 5th Corps was positioned in the western Bosanska Krajina pocket, which cooperated with HVO units in and around Bihać.

The Serbs received the support of Christian Slavic fighters from countries including Russia. Greek volunteers of the Greek Volunteer Guard are also reported to have taken part in the Srebrenica Massacre, with the Greek flag being hoisted in Srebrenica when the town fell to the Serbs.

Some radical Western fighters as well as numerous individuals from the cultural area of Western Christianity fought as volunteers for the Croats including Neo-Nazi volunteers from Germany and Austria. Swedish Neo-Nazi Jackie Arklöv was charged with war crimes upon his return to Sweden. Later he confessed he committed war crimes on Bosnian Muslim civilians in Croatian camps Heliodrom and Dretelj as a member of Croatian forces.

The Bosnians received support from Muslim groups. According to some US NGO reports, there were also several hundred Iranian Revolutionary Guards assisting the Bosnian government during the war. Muslim fighters also joined the ranks of the Bosnian Muslims, most notably being fighters from the Lebanese guerilla organisation Hezbollah. These were however reserved for duties requiring close combat engagements, simply because their skill and experience was too valuable to be wasted in other less complicated duties.

At the outset of the Bosnian war, Serb forces attacked the Bosnian Muslim civilian population in eastern Bosnia. Once towns and villages were securely in their hands, the Serb forces – military, police, the paramilitaries and, sometimes, even Serb villagers – applied the same pattern: houses and apartments were systematically ransacked or burnt down, civilians were rounded up or captured, and sometimes beaten or killed in the process. Men and women were separated, with many of the men massacred or detained in the camps. The women were kept in various detention centers where they had to live in intolerably unhygienic conditions, where they were mistreated in many ways including being raped repeatedly. Serb soldiers or policemen would come to these detention centres, select one or more women, take them out and rape them. The Serbs had the upper hand due to heavier weaponry (despite less manpower) that was given to them by the Yugoslav People's Army and established control over most areas where Serbs had relative majority but also in areas where they were a significant minority in both rural and urban regions excluding the larger towns of Sarajevo and Mostar. The Serb military and political leaders, from ICTY received the most accusations of war crimes many of which have been confirmed after the war in ICTY trials.

Most of the capital Sarajevo was predominantly held by the Bosniaks. In the 44 months of the siege, terror against Sarajevo residents varied in intensity, but the purpose remained the same: inflict suffering on civilians to force the Bosnian authorities to accept Serb demands. The VRS surrounded it (alternatively, the Serb forces situated themselves in the areas surrounding Sarajevo the so-called Ring around Sarajevo), deploying troops and artillery in the surrounding hills in what would become the longest siege in the history of modern warfare lasting nearly 4 years. See Siege of Sarajevo.

Numerous cease-fire agreements were signed, and breached again when one of the sides felt it was to their advantage. The UN repeatedly, but unsuccessfully attempted to stop the war and the much-touted Vance-Owen Peace Plan made little impact.

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