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Bosnia's Muslim Political Officials Accused of Campaign Intimidation

By John Pomfret
The Washington Post
MAGLAJ, Bosnia-Herzegovina

Muslim political activists, police and security officers working for President Alija Izetbegovic's party have launched an intimidation campaign against other Muslim politicians who reject the party's stridently nationalistic and Islamic message, Western officials say.

The campaign ranges from death threats to sudden dismissals, from beatings to lobbing hand grenades onto porches. Examples of intimidation have been reported all over Muslim-controlled Bosnia as the country moves closer to national elections, scheduled for Sept. 14.

Officers from Izetbegovic's security organization, the Agency for Information and Documentation, along with dozens of police officers and officials from state-run companies, have been implicated in the campaign.

Izetbegovic also has enlisted the support of the mostly Muslim Bosnian army for his campaign. In a violation of Bosnian law and Izetbegovic's repeated assurances to U.S. officials, three serving Bosnian generals are running for office on Izetbegovic's Party of Democratic Action ticket as a way to pad it with popular personalities from the war.

"I am just an accidental general," explained one of the officers, Sakib Mahmuljin, a high-ranking member of the party and a candidate in the central Bosnian city of Zenica. "It is simply my duty to run."

The campaign mirrors the intimidation of candidates running in Croat- and Serb-held territory in Bosnia who oppose the ultranationalism advocated by their Croat and Serb leaders. However, the Muslim drive is unusual in that it belies Izetbegovic's stated position of tolerance for opposition political parties and support for Western-style democracy.

The sum of the intimidation, which also includes beatings and other attacks in Serb- and Croat-held territory, has led many Western officials to conclude that Bosnia's elections will be far from the "free and fair" vote envisaged in the Dayton peace agreement.

Many of these officials have said off the record that the elections should be postponed. They add, though, that the Clinton administration wants the elections to go ahead because of concerns that a delayed vote could hurt Clinton's own re-election campaign.