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Bosnian demonstrators attack government buildings

BELGRADE, Serbia — Government buildings in Bosnia burned Friday as nationwide protests against privatizations, poverty and corruption exploded into violence.

In Sarajevo, groups of demonstrators, mostly younger people, pelted police and government buildings with stones, bottles and traffic signs.

The Bosnian presidency building and the seat of the Sarajevo canton were in flames with the attackers trying to keep firefighters from putting out the fires, witnesses said.

Dozens of people, mostly police, were injured. Police were ordered to show restraint.

Earlier, protesters had broken into the seat of the regional government in Tuzla, an industrial city about 50 miles north of the capital, and set it on fire. Police pulled out of the building, the Dnevni Avaz newspaper reported. The crowd outside grew to an estimated 10,000.

The head of the Tuzla canton government resigned after the violence.

Workers from several companies in Tuzla had initiated the protest Thursday, demanding back pay and an end to corrupt privatizations. The companies in question went bankrupt after being privatized. Protests, meanwhile, spread to other cities.

Apart from Sarajevo and Tuzla, demonstrators clashed with police and pelted government buildings with stones in Zenica, Mostar and other towns.

Bosnia, which was worst hit by the violent disintegration of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, remains ethnically divided between Serbs, Muslims and Croats although nearly two decades have passed since the war ended.

Bickering among ethnic leaders has stalled virtually all reforms, and the country is in dire straits economically. The ongoing protests have shifted from social and labor demands to pressure on politicians to cut their own benefits and agree to reforms.

However, police, union leaders and politicians have all condemned the violence, blaming groups of hooligans, and called for calm. Looting was reported from the sidelines of all protests.
 

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