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Siege of Mostar

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Siege of Mostar

Siege of Mostar
Part of the Bosnian War

Destroyed buildings in Mostar after the Bosnian War.
Date 3 April 1992 – December 1993
Location Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Result ARBiH launches Operation Neretva '93, followed by Stalemate
Croatian Defense Council (HVO)
Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia
Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ARBiH)
April–June 1992
Commanders and leaders
Jadranko Prlić
Valentin Ćorić
Berislav Pušić
Bruno Stojić
Milivoj Petković
Slobodan Praljak
Veljko Kadijević Sefer Halilović
Casualties and losses
450 killed[1] Unknown 2,000 killed[1]
6,000 wounded[1]

The Siege of Mostar was fought between 1992 and 1993. Initially, it involved the Croatian Defence Council (HVO) and the 4th Corps of the ARBiH fighting against the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) after Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence from Yugoslavia. However, as the conflict matured and as the political landscape changed, the Bosnian Croats and Bosnian Muslims began to fight against each other, culminating in an episode of the Bosnian War that was known as the Croat-Bosniak Conflict.

The Siege

After Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence from Yugoslavia, the town of Mostar was subjected to an 18 month siege. The Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) first bombarded Mostar on 3 April 1992 and over the following week gradually established control over large portions of the town. By 12 June 1992, the Croatian Defence Council (HVO) and the 4th Corps of the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ARBiH) in a joined action amassed enough strength to force the JNA out of Mostar. The JNA responded with heavy shelling. Amongst the destroyed buildings were a Franciscan monastery, the Catholic cathedral, the bishop's palace (with a library collection of over 50,000 books), a number of secular institutions as well as the Karadžoz-bey mosque, as well as thirteen other mosques.

In mid-June 1992, after the battle line moved eastward, the Croatian Defense Council (HVO) demolished the Serbian Orthodox Žitomislić Monastery as well as the Saborna Crkva (Orthodox Cathedral) which was built from 1863-1873. The Serb Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Trinity and the Church of the Birth of the Most Holy Virgin, both dating to the mid 19th century, were demolished by the Croats.[2][3] The Cathedral was also known as the New Orthodox Church, while the latter was known as the Old Orthodox Church

Croat-Bosniak War

Mostar was divided into a Western part, which was dominated by HVO forces and an Eastern part where the Bosnian Army (ARBiH) was largely concentrated. However, the Bosnian Army had its headquarters in Western Mostar in the basement of a building complex referred to as Vranica. In the early hours of 9 May 1993, the Croatian Defence Council attacked Eastern Mostar using artillery, mortars, heavy weapons and small arms. The HVO then gained control of all roads leading into Mostar and international organizations were denied access. Radio Mostar was occupied by the Croats and the broadcaster announced that all Bosniaks should hang out a white flag from their windows to indicate their surrender. The Croatian Defense Council attack had been well prepared and planned.[4]

During the HVO's presence in Mostar, thousands of Bosnian Muslims and other non-Croats were expelled from the Western part of the city and forced into the Eastern part.[5] The Croatian forces' shelling reduced much of the east side of Mostar to rubble. The fierce siege and shelling campaign against the Bosnian Government-controlled Eastern Mostar continued. The HVO campaign resulted in thousands of injuries and fatalities.[5]

The ARBiH launched an operation known as Operation Neretva '93 against the HVO and the Croatian Army in September 1993 to end the siege of Mostar, and to recapture areas of Herzegovina that were under the control of the self-proclaimed Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia.[6] The siege officially ended in December 1993.

Destruction of the Stari Most Bridge

The Stari Most ("Old Bridge") of Mostar stood for 427 years, until it was destroyed on 9 November 1993, during the siege. After its destruction a temporary cable bridge was erected by Spanish UN forces in its place and a rebuilt bridge was opened in 2004.

Responsibility for the destruction of the Bridge is attributed to Bosnian Croat artillery fire.[7][8] Starting on 8 November 1993 the Croatian Defence Council (HVO) attack the bridge with tank fire.[9][10] Sarajevo-based newspapers reported that more than 60 shells hit the bridge before it collapsed.[11] After the destruction of the Stari Most, a spokesman for the Bosnian Croats admitted that they deliberately destroyed it, claiming that it was of strategic importance.[12]

Academics have argued that the bridge held little strategic value and that its shelling was an example of deliberate cultural property destruction. Andras Riedlmayer terms the destruction an act of "killing memory", in which evidence of a shared cultural heritage and peaceful co-existence were deliberately destroyed.[11]


The Stari Most Bridge undergoing reconstruction in 2003.

2,000 Bosniak combatants and civilians were killed and 6,000 were wounded during the siege. The HVO stated that 450 of its soldiers were killed.[1] After the end of the Bosnian War, plans were raised to reconstruct the Stari Most bridge. It was decided to build a bridge as similar as possible to the original, using the same technology and materials.[13] The bridge was built with local materials. Tenelia stone from local quarries was used and Hungarian Army divers recovered stones from the original bridge from the river below.[13] Reconstruction commenced on 7 June 2001 and the reconstructed bridge was inaugurated on 23 July 2004.[13] International officials from Chris Patten, the EU external affairs commissioner, to Paddy Ashdown, the governor of Bosnia, stressed that the reopening signalled a new era of hope and reconciliation. However, at the inauguration there was plenty of Croatian recalcitrance, in what remains a city partitioned along ethnic lines. A Croatian former-soldier who attended the inauguration was quoted as saying, "to be honest, we prefer it destroyed. They're making a lot of fuss about it and all the money goes on the bridge. But it's got nothing to do with us. It's a Muslim bridge."[14]

The HVO leadership (Jadranko Prlić, Bruno Stojić, Milivoj Petković, Valentin Ćorić and Berislav Pušić) and the Croatian Army officer Slobodan Praljak[15] are presently on trial at the ICTY on charges including crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva conventions and violations of the laws or customs of war (with the prosecution alleging that he ordered the destruction of the Stari Most bridge.[5][16]) ARBiH commander Sefer Halilović was charged with one count of "Violation of the Laws and Customs of War" on the basis of superior criminal responsibility for the incidents that occurred during Operation Neretva '93 and was found not guilty.


  1. ^ a b c d Jonathan S. Landay (14 March 1994). "Cease-Fire at Mostar Creates Guarded Hopes for Peace". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 17 May 2014. 
  2. ^ ICTY indictment against the Croat Herzeg-Bosnia leadership, Statement of the Case, Article 27, 2003.
  3. ^ Prof. Michael Sells' page documenting the destruction
  4. ^ "ICTY: Naletilić and Matinović verdict". 
  5. ^ a b c "ICTY: Jadranko Prlić, Bruno Stojić, Slobodan Praljak, Milivoj Petković, Valentin Ćorić & Berislav Pušić". 
  6. ^ Thomas, Nigel; Mikulan, K. (2006). The Yugoslav Wars: Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia 1992–2001. p. 27.  
  7. ^ Grodach, Carl (2002). "Reconstituting identity and history in post-war Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina". City 6 (1): 61–82.  
  8. ^ Woodard, Colin (2000). "Bosnia: Stillborn". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 56 (5): 17–19.  
  9. ^ Tucker, Spencer (2009) . A Global Chronology of Conflict: From the Ancient World to the Modern Middle East. ABC-CLIO, p. 2630. ISBN 1851096728
  10. ^ Wresch, William (1996). Disconnected: Haves and Have-Nots in the Information Age. Rutgers University Press, p 140. ISBN 0813523702
  11. ^ a b Coward, Martin (2009). Urbicide: The Politics of Urban Destruction. London: Routledge. pp. 1–7.  
  12. ^ Borowitz, Albert (2005). Terrorism for self-glorification: the herostratos syndrome. Kent State University Press. p. 65.  
  13. ^ a b c Armaly, Maha; Blasi, Carlo; Hannah, Lawrence (2004). "Stari Most: rebuilding more than a historic bridge in Mostar". Museum International 56 (4): 6–17.  
  14. ^ Traynor, Ian (July 24, 2004). "Mostar reclaims Ottoman heritage". The Guardian (London). Retrieved May 24, 2010. 
  15. ^ Del Ponte, Carla (March 2, 2004). "The Prosecutor of the Tribunal against Jadranko Prlic, Bruno Stojic, Slobodan Praljak, Milivoj Petkovic, Valentin Coric and Berislav Pusic: Indictment". ICTY. Retrieved January 17, 2010. 
  16. ^ "Nije dokazano da je HVO srušio Stari most u Mostaru" [It hasn't been proven that the HVO destroyed Stari most in Mostar].  
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