Sabre-Rattling in Bosnia and Herzegovina

July 2022, Protesters gather outside the Office of the High Representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Photo: David I. Klein)

For a couple of years now a political crisis looming in Bosnia and Herzegovina has escalated during the past two months towards a crisis worse than the one during the 1992-1995 war that saw 100,000 people killed, that saw genocide committed by Serb aggressor, that saw Bosnian Muslims import Islamic Mujahideen forces in the process of slaughtering Bosnian Croats as if their slaughter by the Serbs was not enough. The Croat population in Bosnia and Herzegovina has reduced drastically since 1995 and is now threatened to become an ethnic minority in cantons or areas across the country instead of remaining one of three Constitutional peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina nationally. The Electoral laws have permitted Muslims to elect Croat representatives and, contrary to Serb and Muslim population Croats have for years been denied the exclusive right to elect their own representatives into the parliament and other assemblies that carry on the governing within the country.

Christian Schmidt, the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina overseeing implementation of the 1995 Dayton peace agreement that ended the devastating war, said on several occasions in the past few months that leaders of the country’s Bosnian Serb-dominated entity (Republika Srpska/ Serbian Republic) have systematically challenged Dayton Agreement provisions and intensified their activities aimed at usurping powers granted to the federal government. While the Dayton Accords successfully ended the massacres, this arrangement currently exacerbates problems in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Namely, the creation of the ‘Republika Srpska’ and the tripartite presidency essentially rewarded Bosnian Serb leaders of the Bosnian War with unimpeachable influence over the new Bosnian state. The clear ethnic divisions inherent in Bosnia’s two entities as well as its ethnically segregated presidencies enables its leaders to pit their ethnic groups against each other for political gain and Croats being in lesser numbers in the Federation are systematically being oppressed and quashed by Bosniak/Muslim powers.

High Representative and EU Special Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, German diplomat Christian Schmidt, Schmidt is the eighth international administrator in Bosnia and Herzegovina since the end of the 1992-1995 war. EPA-EFE/FEHIM DEMIR

The U.S.-brokered Dayton peace agreement (1995) established two separate entities in Bosnia and Herzegovina — one run by Bosnia’s Serbs (Republika Srpaska) and another – Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina – dominated by the Bosniaks (Muslims) but also consisting of Croats where both Muslims and Croats were to have equal status and power. The two entities are bound together by joint central institutions, and all-important decisions must be backed by both. But when Muslims elect Croat representatives to the parliament and assemblies the issue has been that such representatives have not fully acted in the interests of Croats.

Schmidt said in his May 2022 report to the U.N. Security Council that the actions by the Bosnian Serb entity, known as Republika Srpska, “not only erode the fundamentals of the agreement, but directly threaten to undo more than 25 years of progress in building up Bosnia and Herzegovina as a state firmly on the path towards European Union integration.”

In July 2021, the UN Security Council rejected a resolution put forward by Russia, which has close ties to the Bosnian Serbs, and Moscow’s ally China that would have stripped the powers of the international High Representative immediately and eliminated the position entirely in one year.

The High Representative’s powers have come under criticism from Bosnian Serbs for not offering the possibility of appealing his decisions, which have immediate effect. The Office of the High Representative has dismissed dozens of officials, including judges, civil servants, and members of parliament, since its inception, and overturned other actions.

Schmidt said Republika Srpska’s government and National Assembly have sought to chip away at state institutions by creating parallel bodies in the Bosnian Serb entity. At the same time, he said, representatives from Republika Srpska elected or appointed to the National Assembly and state institutions either don’t participate in decision-making or block decisions not in the interests of Bosnian Serbs.

“This has the effect of impeding the state’s ability to function and exercise its constitutional responsibilities,” Schmidt said.

He pointed to “non-existent” legislative output, stalled reforms required to advance toward EU membership, international agreements on hold, and the failure to adopt a state-level budget for the second year in a row.

On April 16, 2022, Schmidt suspended a law adopted by Republika Srpska that would have enabled the Bosnian Serbs to take over state-owned property on their territory, calling it unconstitutional. Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik said in an interview that action by Schmidt couldn’t stop the law from taking effect.

Another contentious issue has been the lack of agreement between Bosniaks and Croats in the federation on electoral reforms, which Schmidt said has prompted Croat parties to cast doubt on the holding of the 2022 general elections (due 2nd October, that decide the makeup of Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency, national, entity and cantonal governments), including by withholding financing for the elections.

Bosnian Croats have for years now claimed debilitating discrimination and demanded that the voting system be changed to make sure that Bosnian Croats alone choose Croat representatives. Bosniak officials have denied the claims and talks on the election reform have been stuck and shape the critical stage of the political crisis currently stifling the country.

Schmidt insists the 2022 general elections will be held in October under the same rules as in 2018, even though at that time calls for electoral laws changes were loud with many believing that the election results were illegal because the electoral laws were not changed to exclusively enable the Croats to vote for their own representatives.

UN Human Rights Chief, Michelle Bachelet, recently called for Bosnian politicians to “turn the page on rhetoric and policies of division,” and instead, “focus on promoting the rights of everyone across the country, and to build an inclusive and democratic future, based on equality of all citizens.” For this to happen, the leaders of Bosnia-Herzegovina need to stop being politically rewarded for stirring ethnic strife OR permit equal rights and equal representation in governments of all three Constitutional peoples as designed by the Dayton Agreement. The desire for power (especially Bosniak and Serb) has led Bosnian leaders to lean towards divisive, sectarian politics that allow them to deflect from their own failures. Creating a more inclusive political system that addresses and respects ethnic differences without being solely defined by them would perhaps be an answer.

Christian Schmidt is adamant to impose measures for the re-functioning of Bosnia’s Federation (FBiH) entity, which include Electoral law changes and changes to the Federation Constitution. The changes to the Constitution, for example, mean that Bosnia’s constituent nations under Dayton Agreement – Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs – if their numbers in any Federation entity canton are less than 3 per cent, will no longer have representatives in the House of Peoples of the Federation parliament. This possibility has created uproars on all sides as it seriously weakens the strength of a constitutional people on national level. The political atmosphere of intolerance and sabre-rattling in Bosnia and Herzegovina is seriously escalating, while Croatia’s Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and President Zoran Milanovic are also at loggerheads regarding the best approach that would see Bosnian Croats receive their due powers and rights and avoid a terrible destiny of being reduced to an ethnic minority in the country or obsolete as far as governing of the country is concerned. 

In his Press Release of 28 July 2022, Christian Schmidt said that irresponsible rhetoric in Bosnia and Herzegovina must stop: “Warmongering and inflammatory statements, such as this one by Mr. (Bekir) Izetbegovic, are dangerous and hark back to the tragic conflict in the 1990s. They spread fear amongst all citizens, add to tensions, and in no way contribute to the promotion of cooperation, stability, and reconciliation in the country. Mr. Izetbegovic, together with all political leaders, should work on finding ways to keep the youngest and the brightest in the country instead of advocating for robots to replace them,” said the High Representative.

Considering the legislative and constitutional changes Schmidt looks to impose in Bosnia and Herzegovina Croatia’s Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said this week:  “We hope that the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Christian Schmidt, will take steps that will ensure at least minimal equality for Croats after the elections on 2 October.”  From where I am standing it is deeply concerning that Plenkovic talks of “minimal equality”, thus planting the idea that he would be happy with crumbs for Bosnian Croats rather than an equal slice of the power bread loaf. Quite scandalous and cowardly really. Croatia’s President Zoran Milanovic has been quite clear and stronger in expressing his views. “Across (the border) they are threatening war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. They threaten war. Sefik Dzaferovic (Muslim member of Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency), who was a Mujahideen hostess in 1993, the man was in the committee for welcoming Mujahideen in the security unit in Zenica, now he and his boss are threatening war, drones. That’s a bigger topic for me than anything else. They are trying to beat up the Croatian people there… What is going on in Bosnia and Herzegovina is raging and threatening and politically endangering a nation of people. The issue of national security is not Ukraine, but Bosnia and Herzegovina. The language of hatred and intolerance is rampant in the streets of Sarajevo. The High Representative is being threatened, he can blame himself for that, because he is amending the Election Law and the Federation Constitution, which does not give Croats anything, but even that is considered a bit too much. He panics under the pressure of the Mahallas and Kasabs, the pub, the street or the Berlin police …,” Milanovic told the media during this week.

Bosnian Croats appear almost as an endangered species in that political environment with inadequate voices and inadequate propping supports from outside, from official Croatia. Bosnian Croats want to ensure that only Croats can vote for the Croat presidency by creating their own electoral district, to ensure that Bosniaks/Muslims cannot use loopholes in the existing electoral law that allow them to vote for Croat representatives as they have been doing and thus endangering Croat interests and rights. On the other hand, if public claims threaded through the media that Christian Schmidt is aiming to Islamise Bosnia and Herzegovina surface with substance then it will be clear that Croats are to be more disadvantaged than ever regardless Schmidt’s new proposed legislative changes that aim to provide freedom of all Bosnia and Herzegovina citizens to return to their homes where they had lived before the 1990’s war without fear or impediment. As 2nd October draws near this sabre rattling that’s been happening in Bosnia and Herzegovina will either die down or increase in intensity to perhaps a new armed conflict with alarming consequences beyond the country’s borders. Ina Vukic 

Croatia: Full Steam Ahead Towards Eurozone!

It is official: On January 1, 2023, the Euro will be Croatia’s legal tender and payments with the existing Kuna is to be phased out completely within two weeks that will follow.

The European Union has July 12, 2022, removed the final obstacles to Croatia adopting the euro, enabling the first expansion of the currency bloc in almost a decade as the exchange rate fell to its weakest level against the dollar in 20 years.

The European Union (EU) finance ministers, in the presence of Croatia’s outgoing finance minister Zdravko Maric, approved July 13, 2022, three laws that paved the way for Croatia to become the 20th member of the eurozone on January 1, 2023.

Created in 1999 among 11 countries including Germany and France, the euro has gone through seven previous enlargements starting with Greece in 2001. The appeal of euro membership is reflected by the last three expansions, which brought in Baltic states between 2011 and 2015. The last EU member country to join the European single-currency area was Lithuania in 2015.

Croatia’s acceptance into the European Union on the 1st of July 2013 evidently marked the beginning of the end of the Kuna as Croatia’s currency ever since its proud introduction amidst the ravages of Homeland War during which Croatia defended itself from brutal Serbian aggression on 30th May 1994. Entering the European Union in 2013 brought with it many changes be they for better or for worse and one of the most significant is upon Croatians with Croatia entering the Eurozone in 2023.

Many predict that the effect of this transition will make life even harder for ordinary people especially pensioners while others continue convincing the people that bringing in the euro will be better than “the invention of sliced bread”. Preparations are underway to ensure that everything is ready for the new currency. The production of coins and monetary paper notes has commenced full speed ahead during the past two weeks.

Despite the “very strong challenges” of high inflation and dented economic growth, Croatian outgoing finance minister Zdravko Maric said he is pleased to see his country switch to the euro. At this time when the Eurozone itself is facing rising levels of inflation and stagnating growth, the decision for Croatia to join the EU’s common currency may come as a surprise to quite a few.  A lot of economists in Germany, however, see things differently. Especially as the next candidate after Croatia is Bulgaria, which has already applied for membership and aims to become the 21st country to introduce the common currency in 2024. Croatia is the third poorest country in the EU, Bulgaria with a gross domestic product of less than 10,000 euros per capita ranks last in economic power.

Croatia is not giving up a stable currency, but rather hopes to benefit from the more favourable debt conditions in the monetary union. The country relies more than any other EU state on tourists, who generate a fifth of gross domestic product and find holidaying much easier when they needn’t grapple with exchange rates. Meanwhile, most private and corporate bank deposits are held in euros, along with more than two-thirds of debt totalling about 520 billion kuna ($75 billion). Euro-area membership will lower interest rates, improve credit ratings, and make Croatia more attractive to investors, according to Croatian National Bank Governor Boris Vujcic.

The European Central Bank has already announced that it will use a new monetary policy instrument to ensure that interest rate differentials within the monetary union remain low during the crisis. The Germany based Kiel Institute for the World Economy worries that because of years of misguided developments in the Eurozone with ultra-loose monetary policy and lax debt rules, the monetary union is only attracting the wrong people. Brussels was desperate to give the signal that the Eurozone is growing, especially since Brexit. And it is noted that Croatia’s entry into the Eurozone represents a most significant event for the EU since Brexit. It is suggestive of concern that strong EU member states of Sweden and Denmark still do not want to introduce the euro or enter the Eurozone. The Kiel Institute has also expressed the opinion that as long as the major problems of the Eurozone monetary union have not been solved, the circle should not be widened: “As long as you haven’t stabilised your house, you shouldn’t grow.

The Euro has been the currency of the European union since 1999 and with Croatia joining the Eurozone, changes will be visible in the upcoming period from small households to large companies. The question on everyone’s mind is will life be more costly with the Euro?

Joining the euro requires a country to meet a set of economic conditions. These relate to low inflation, sound public finances, a stable exchange rate and limited borrowing costs.

“It’s a wonderful club to be a member of, but it requires commitment, dedication, continued respect of the rules, and I know that we can expect no less from Croatia,” European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde said.

For Croatia to be able to switch to Euro many conditions had to be met. As stated in the Maastricht Treaty, there are four conditions for entering the Eurozone:

Price stability – inflation rate cannot be over the average inflation rate of 3 member states with the best price stability enlarged by 1,5 percentage points;

Sustainability of public finance – the general country deficit to GDP ratio must not be over 3% and the general country debt to GDP ratio must not be over 60%;

Currency stability – at least 2 years must be spent in ERM II (European Exchange Rate Mechanism) without significant oscillations or devaluation to central rate;

Convergence of long-term interest rates – interest on long-term government bonds may not supersede referent values of interest on bonds of the 3 member states with the best price stability enlarged by 2 percentage points.

Croatia’s government adopted a national plan to replace the Croatian Kuna with the Euro in December 2020. The main goal of the plan is to ensure a seamless transition to Euro. One of the key factors in achieving this, lies in the hands of the IT sector that will need to adapt all systems to the new currency. Also, the new currency must be physically distributed among the private, corporate, and public sector. Even though everything will be paid in Euros from the 1st of January 2023 there will be a transition period of two weeks in which people may pay with Kunas but must receive Euros back. Non-cash transactions will be exclusively in Euros. Banks will exchange up to 100 bills or 100 coins of Kunas to Euros in one transaction free of additional fees which will also ease the way to fully integrating the Euro in the economy.

To better prepare for Euro all prices will be listed dually in Kunas and Euros from the 5th of September 2022, as the first Monday in September, and will be displayed as such until December 31st, 2023. Aside from the price being listed in both currencies, the fixed exchange rate will also be displayed.

This will ensure people getting used to the change of prices before the Euro is implemented. Salaries will also be displayed in dual currency and converted to Euros according to the fixed exchange rate so there shouldn’t be a negative financial impact to people’s lives in general. Getting used to the new prices will however take a while to get used to even if the prices do not rise. The government will also try to regulate sellers so that prices do not rise significantly though surely everyone will feel the differences due to the currency change.

Whether the introduction of the Euro will bring Croatia more benefits or more difficulties remains to be seen in the New Year but as with any change it is up to all of Croatians to make the whole process unfold as easily as possible and move forward into the future with the hope of it being a better one for Croatians and for future generations to come. Hopes as they go are intangible and real living brings them to life either in the positive or negative sense from everyone’s perspective. Almost half of the right-wing parliamentary opposition in Croatia consider the introduction of the euro at this time as unadvisable and damaging to the already lowered living standards that are under enormous downward pressure with increasing inflation, energy crisis and war in Ukraine. Ina Vukic

September 1976 Hijacking of TWA Plane – A Detailed Reconstruction of the Evening in Which the Whole World Learned About Croatia’s Suffering Under Communist Yugoslavia

From left to right: Zvonko Busic, Marko Vlasic, Petar Matanic, Frane Pesut and Julienne Busic after arrest at Paris Airport. There are detectives behind them. Photo: The New York Times, September 13, 1976. | Photo: New York Times/archive

Zvonko Busic believed that good things should be shared with everyone. What he lived, worked for and believed in, what he sacrificed for, is presented in his book “All Visible Things”, which is available on Amazon. From now on, we are happy to inform you, you will be able to have access to this part of Croatian history every other Wednesday and print it out free of charge, in Croatian and English, on the dijaspora.hr portal. Chapter by chapter, drop of blood by drop of blood, and life day by day in 33 parts – with only one goal! He will live on…

“The Hijacking

After the decision was made, I immediately began preparations. I started studying necessary materials, locating appropriate collaborators, and planned a meeting with Bruno to discuss the Declaration I intended to have printed in newspapers and thrown from the plane. The main handbook for making the bomb was the then popular ‘Anarchist’s Cookbook’. Julie was later accused of having torn pages out of this book in the library, which really upset and angered her, since she comes from a family of book lovers who would consider that an unforgivable sacrilege. She firmly insisted that all she did was photocopy the pages, not tear them out, although it was a totally insignificant point in the trial.

I studied airplanes as well. The plane, I believed, had to be appropriate for what I intended. The choice fell on the Boeing 727. The traditional characteristics one looks for in a plane – speed, size, type, and power of the motor – were not the most critical. What was important was that the plane had double doors, so that the first door could be opened from the inside of the plane, then closed, and then the second door opened, so that the well-known suction phenomenon could not occur, drawing everything and everyone out of the plane. This double-door element was used by the famous American robber and blackmailer, D. B. Cooper. After he got the money and released the passengers, he ordered the crew to take off and wait for further instructions. He also said nobody was allowed to leave the cabin without his permission, and he would kill the first one who dared. After they waited quite a while for instructions about where to fly, one of the stewardesses took a risk and entered the passenger seating area. But it was totally empty, although the doors and windows were firmly closed. It turns out Cooper had used the advantage of the double doors. He went into the middle door space, then closed the first door, opened the second and parachuted out. With the money! He was never caught.

I was not interested in money, but the double doors seemed ideal to me for throwing leaflets. That is why I chose the Boeing 727. I was fortunate enough to meet a stewardess who had been on that flight with D. B. Cooper. She told me in great detail how the entire action unfolded, never suspecting the source of my interest for Cooper and the Boeing 727. The first blow to my plan took place when I learned from the pilot, after I had taken control of our plane, that after the Cooper events, the doors were altered on that type of plane. Leaflets could no longer be thrown from the plane. What’s more, because of the possible danger that the leaflets could be sucked into the motor, they could not be thrown in any other way, either. So, we had to put a second plane in the air in Montreal. From there we then headed for Europe.

I did need a certain amount of money for the action I had planned. This was fairly simple; a close friend gave me 10,000 dollars without my having to explain any details about the action. He had complete trust in me, and I felt information should be given out sparingly even to the participants in the action. It was enough for them to know the basic plan; the details were known only to me. Julie knew the most, but even she did not know there was a real bomb in the locker of the train station. Frane Pesut, one of the participants, said he was ready to help Croatia in any way without knowing the details. Slobodan Vlasic also knew about the action in greater detail, but did not know the explosive was fake. He was the most knowledgeable in assembling explosives, so I gave him the task of assembling all the different parts of the alleged ‘bomb’ in the plane’s bathroom, which he did, thinking it was real. Frane’s finger even turned blue from holding the switch for thirty-two hours!

Why did I not tell them everything? First, I knew we were all going to prison, since we planned to surrender after the media printed the leaflets and threw them over certain cities. This surrender was supposed to be one of the key elements of the action. After our surrender and after the passengers had spoken, we hoped, given the humaneness of our behavior toward them, that the whole world would know of the dictatorship in Croatia and nobody would be able to say that we, fighters for Croatian freedom, acted like cold-blooded terrorists, although the hijacking itself was a drastic action. I thought my co-defendants would have an easier defense after the surrender and receive a lesser sentence the less they knew of my intentions. Second, I wanted to have the whole action under control. I was afraid that if there had been real explosives in the plane, some unforeseen circumstance could lead to an accident and harm innocent victims. This was out of the question! On the other hand, if it was known the explosives were not real, something could also go wrong. One of us could expose this through our behavior, get panicky or something. Third, why hide it? At that time, I was quite paranoid, like most political emigrants. The Yugoslav Secret Service harassed us, spied on us, killed us, infiltrated into our ranks. Therefore, a secret you haven’t shared with anyone remains yours alone and you are its master; otherwise, it controls you.

The preparations went according to plan. In the spring, Julie and I traveled to Europe to meet with Bruno. He accepted the task of writing The Call for Dignity and Freedom. Julie hoped that Bruno, who was older and more mature, would maybe talk me out of the action. Of course, that did not happen. We spent most of our time at the Boden Lake. Julie had even gone to Herzegovina. It presented a certain risk, but she as an American could afford it. That June in 1976 was the last time I saw Bruno. They murdered him two years later when I was already in prison serving a life sentence.

Julie typed the leaflet text on a friend’s typewriter, Marijan Gabelica. I knew the police would investigate this so I did not attempt to hide this fact. It is true that Gabelica was the best defense. Before launching the action, we stopped at his place and returned the typewriter. When the police questioned me, I told them whose typewriter it had been. Gabelica really had no idea why I needed the typewriter. And since he didn’t know, they were unable to charge him with anything.

We bought the pots in a market and wrapped them up as gifts before going to the airport. We said we were going to a friend’s wedding. The metal detectors could not detect the clay, and even if they had found it in a baggage search, they would not have suspected anything. It might have seemed bizarre that I was carrying clay with me, but they would not have considered it a dangerous substance. Regardless of all my security measures, I still was unsure whether I was being followed or under suspicion, so I spent the day and night before the action bar hopping so I’d be seen ‘drinking’, and finally went to bed at dawn. Just in case I was being followed, I was sure nobody in his right mind would think that I could have performed such an action as a hijacking after such a ‘wild’ night.

The whole action was based upon a very nuanced psychological exercise. For more than thirty hours we were in absolute control of the situation in the plane, as well as holding several governments at bay, throwing leaflets, and dictating the printing of the leaflets in leading world media while flying over two continents – all without so much as a nail file in our pockets. If the fatal case with Officer Murray had not occurred, it would have been the most successful and unblemished hijacking in history. As it was, it left within me and the others a bitter taste, a deep regret and remorse that will follow us all our days.

Well-intentioned people have often asked me why I had to leave explosives in the locker at the train station. It seemed to them a senseless and unnecessary addition to a well thought-out plan. But this is not so. The explosives in the locker were every bit as important a part of the plan as the clay in the pots. It was intended to give credibility to my negotiations with the American authorities, the agents, and the police. The pots we carried with us were identical to the pot left in the locker, except that in ours there was clay, and in the other real explosives. Without this bomb, someone might believe we were bluffing. Besides that, it was my intention in the beginning to present ourselves as dangerous terrorists not to be fooled with, because that was the only way our demands would be met. Therefore, the bomb was an important element in the overall plan.

However, it is difficult to live with the knowledge that an innocent person died as a collateral victim of an idealistic action, for which he had no idea or interest. The issue of accidental, innocent victims is one that is always considered when an action with dangerous elements is undertaken. And I gave the most thought of all in my planning to this aspect of the action. That is why, after all, the hijacking took place without using any weapons whatsoever. But a tragedy happened where it was least expected, where there was not, it seemed, even a theoretical chance that things would go wrong.

I have already written about how I am almost positive that certain agencies were involved in the death of Officer Murray. The hijacking surprised both Americans and the Yugoslav Secret Police, and it would be difficult to prove that there was some kind of agreement between the two to compromise the action. But I am convinced there was. I claim this not to free myself from guilt. Guilt is above all a moral category. I have absolved the legal, judicial aspect of guilt through my 32 year-long imprisonment that I served longer than countless murderers, rapists, and career criminals. The moral aspect of my guilt is left to my own conscience and to the Almighty, regardless of whether Murray’s death was caused by the negligence of those who detonated the bomb, or a diversion by certain intelligence agencies. I placed the explosives in the locker and I carry guilt for the death they caused, regardless of what happened after their removal to the detonation site four hours later.

So, I am not trying to absolve myself from guilt by means of some later reconstruction, but I truly believe that there was involvement by people who wanted at all costs to compromise the entire action. There seemed to be considerable concern and uneasiness among the American agencies as well. Several New York Times articles (September 12 and 14, 1976), only days after the hijacking, wrote of the ‘painstaking evaluations’ undertaken by the head of the bomb section in the wake of the ‘first such fatality in 37 years’. The department head acknowledged that “none of these experts wore protective gear when they approached the device… as they were required to under police regulations”, including Officer Murray, who was described as ‘a gung ho cop who was one of the first to take on a dangerous task’. However, ‘the cause of the explosion eluded them,’ but not the answer to the question of why the officers were not wearing required protective gear. ‘What clearly perplexed the bomb squad… was why the device failed to respond to impulses generated by the remote control mechanism that the police normally use to detonate explosives in the demolition pit.’ One theory the police pursued, according to the NYT article, ‘was that the remote control gadget did activate the bomb several minutes after it was supposed to, just as officer Murray and the others approached the device.’ This would be the exact scenario I had discussed with Ames: the frequency of the remote control device was overridden and disabled, and at the very moment the officers were bending over the bomb, all without protective gear, another ‘player’ with a different game plan activated the device. My discussions with Ames gave me even more concrete knowledge of the probability and logic of my conclusions. Of course I deeply mourn the death of the innocent police officer, but I’ve thought seriously and often about the entire case, and it always seemed to me that there was a dark shadow of the Yugoslav Secret Police, UDBA, hanging over it.

(Editor note: Two years after this book was first published in Croatia, an American intelligence expert and former NSA analyst, John Schindler, released the first well-documented and credible expose of the long-term UDBA-FBI connections and their collaboration in the United States and elsewhere (The Observer, January 4, 2016). This confirmed the possibility, even probability, that the explosion at the Bronx detonation site in our case could well have been sabotage:

Why Hasn’t Washington Explained the 1975 LaGuardia Airport Bombing?

http://studiacroatica.blogspot.hr/2010/02/dr-john-r-schindler-agents-provocateurs.html)

During the hijacking, I spent most of the time in the pilot’s cabin. Julie and Matanic communicated most with the passengers. Pesut and Vlasic represented a kind of understated threat; at least, that was how we intended the passengers view them. When I learned from the pilot that leaflets could not be thrown from the plane we were in, the situation became more complicated, but I did not despair. In fact, the entire time I had the feeling I was keeping the situation under perfect control. I knew the police had confirmed the explosives in the locker were genuine so I was not concerned that someone would get the idea we had hijacked the plane totally unarmed. Actually, in dangerous actions, this is usually the case – when the plan is made, the decision reached, and the action launched, one simply functions according to plan.

Then the shock came in Paris, when we got the news that a police officer had died. At first, I did not want to believe it; I thought the intelligence services had printed a special, false edition of the New York Times in order to destroy our morale. I sent Julie from the plane to call certain phone numbers and confirm the truth of this news. When I learned it was really true, it was clear to me that the action was over. There would be no further throwing of leaflets over Zagreb and Solin, where at that time the 1300-year anniversary of Christianity in Croatia was being celebrated. When I had been planning the hijacking, among several symbolic dates I had decided on this one. The knowledge that an innocent person had become a victim and a human life lost led to our immediate surrender. It was probably the most difficult day in my life, and I have had thousands of extremely difficult days. The intensity of feelings I experienced in just one day was immeasurable. From the belief of having a situation under perfect control, that I was doing something significant for the ideals I had fought for my entire life, and then to extreme desolation that things had taken such an utterly unexpected turn.

I did not completely despair, though, because what was begun had to be brought to an end. The surrender took place in an orderly fashion and without panic. First the passengers exited, along with my colleagues. The pilot and I remained until the end. Although the police ordered the pilot to come out before I did, he refused to do so, suspecting the Special Forces would shoot me. He insisted we leave together; he even put his arm around my shoulder so that, if that had been their intention, they would not be able to shoot me without endangering his life as well.

Then he gave the journalists gathered around the plane this widely reported statement: ‘This drama is over for the crew and travelers, but for Taik and his comrades it has only just begun.’ Many years later, I was flying from Split to Zagreb. As I passed the pilot in the aisle, he recognized me and asked with a wry smile, ‘So where are we flying today, Mr. Busic?’ The sincere humor in the voice of this man reminded me of the captain of the hijacked plane. I would say I am one of the few hijackers who has only had good experiences with pilots. Zvonko Bušić”

(Republished by Ina Vukic with permission)

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