The Role of Paramilitary Forces

Homegrown paramilitary forces also posed a significant command and control problem for both the HVO and the ABiH. Several of the Bosnian political parties sponsored their own armed forces, and there were also a number of small, private armies raised by Croat and Muslim leaders. Such groups, some of which were little more than heavily armed bandit gangs, were impossible to restrain, short of mounting an all-out campaign to annihilate them.

The principal paramilitary organization posing a control problem for HVO authorities in central Bosnia was the Croatian Defense Force (HOS), the military arm of the ultra-right wing Croatian Party of Rights (HSP), which had branches in both Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.20 The HOS forces, dressed in black and sporting a variety of fascist insignia, included both Muslims and Croats and cooperated enthusiastically with the HVO and the ABiH in the fight against the Bosnian Serbs.21 The HOS headquarters was in Ljubuski, and its principal area of operations was in the southern areas of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Extremist in their orientation, HOS soldiers were responsible for numerous excesses—including the operation of notorious detention centers for Serb prisoners in Capljina and Mostar.22

Initially, both HVO and RBiH authorities tolerated the unpredictable and unruly HOS forces for their value in fighting the Serb aggressors. Relations between the HVO and HOS soured quickly, however, after the HVO was implicated in the ambush and death of Blaz Kraljevic, a HOS commander, and seven other HOS members at a police checkpoint in the village of Krusevo on August 9, 1992.23 Soon thereafter, HOS forces in western Herzegovina were disarmed by the HVO, and on August 23, HOS and HVO officials in Herzegovina agreed that the HOS would be absorbed by the HVO. The remaining HOS units were subsequently recognized by the government of Bosnia-Herzegovina as part of the ABiH (as was the HVO). Those HOS forces operating in central Bosnia under the command of Mladen Holman were later merged with the HVO in central Bosnia on April 5, 1993.24 The HOS units in the Zenica area, along with their vehicles, weapons, ammunition, and other matériel, were integrated into the HVO and placed under the command of the Jure Francetic and 2d Zenica Brigades.

The OZCB commander had several other small paramilitary groups under his nominal control. Among them was the so-called Alpha Force, a thirty-five-man reconnaissance and sabotage group formed on April 6,

Fig. 3-1. Organization of HVO 4th Military Police (VP) Battalion

Fig. 3-1. Organization of HVO 4th Military Police (VP) Battalion

Blaz Kraljevic

Note: Organization shown is as of February 15,1993.

Source:Commander, 4th Military Police Battalion (Pasco Ljubicic) to Military Police Administration, Mostar, no. 02-4/3-07-190/93, Vitez, Feb. 15,1993, subj: (Military Police Payroll), KC D321/1.

1992. Kris Wilson, a Briton, led the Vitez-based organization.25 Another shadowy paramilitary force operating in the Lasva Valley was the so-called Tvrtko II, which appears to have been a locally sanctioned PPN-type unit. It, too, apparently operated under at least the nominal control of the OZCB commander inasmuch as it is listed on the distribution list for some HQ, OZCB, orders and messages. There were several similar local special purpose units under the HVO 111xp Brigade in the Zepce area.

For Enver Hadzihasanovic, commander of the ABiH III Corps, the problem included "authorized" units acting independently, as well as a number of private armies and armed extremist groups operating in the corps area of operations. Some of them were little more than criminal gangs continuing the long Balkan tradition of the mountain bandit.

Although a regularly constituted unit of the ABiH, the 7th Muslim Motorized Brigade posed many of the same command and control problems for the commander of the ABiH III Corps that the Vitezovi and 4th Military Police Battalion posed for the commander of the HVO OZCB. Created in November, 1992, the 7th Muslim Motorized Brigade was an elite mobile unit made up of Bosnian Muslims particularly devoted to Islamic funda-mentalism.26 The brigade was normally dispersed, and its battalions, companies, or even platoons were employed in critical areas as assault troops or to stiffen other units. The brigade's officers and men tended to be radical and independent in outlook, and it appears that the unit had a close relationship with the mujahideen and received some funding from Emir Mah-mut Efendija Karalic's Islamic Center in Zenica.27 The III Corps commander was apparently able to exercise only nominal control over their operations, although Col. Asim Koricic, the brigade's commander from its formation to July, 1993, testified at the Blaskic trial that the brigade was totally subordinate to the III Corps commander.28

The private armies and other armed Muslim extremist groups operating in the region were also troublesome from the standpoint of effective command and control by the III Corps commander. Chief among those paramilitary units were elements of the Patriotic League not already integrated into the ABiH; the Muslim Armed Forces, made up primarily of Muslims who previously had been members of the HOS and based at the Bilmisce School in Zenica; and Ahmed Demirovic's Green Berets.29 The ABiH also employed several armed gangs raised and led by private individuals as special purpose units. These included the hundred-man Sosna Detachment in Novi Travnik, and two sixty- to eighty-man units—one in Nanetovi and one in Mercici.30

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