Operation Tiger (1994)

Operation Tiger '94
Part of the Bosnian War
Western Autonomous Republics of the Former Yugoslavia 1993.png
Western Bosnia is the light green canton in the middle
DateJune 2 – August 21, 1994
Location
Result Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina victory
Belligerents
Bosnia and Herzegovina Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ARBiH) AP Western Bosnia
 Republic of Serbian Krajina (SVK)
 Republika Srpska (VRS)
Commanders and leaders
Bosnia and Herzegovina Atif Dudaković[1] Fikret Abdić
Casualties and losses
40,000 refugees

Operation Tiger 94 (Bosnian: Operacija Tigar 94 or Operacija Tigar-Sloboda 94) was a military action in the summer of 1994, by the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ARBiH) against the Bosnian autonomous zone of the Autonomous Province of Western Bosnia, its leader Fikret Abdić and his Serbian backers the Army of the Republic of Serb Krajina (SVK), and the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS). The battle was a huge success for the ARBiH, which was able to rout Abdić's forces and occupy the territory of Western Bosnia. Fikret Abdić was able to recapture the territory in December 1994 in Operation Spider.

Background[]

The early 1990s saw the existence of a western "Muslim" enclave held by Bosnian government forces under the leadership of the ARBiH commander, Atif Dudaković. The region was fortunate that even having some Croatian population in southwest, it was able to avoid internecine fighting between the once-allied Croatian Defence Council (HVO) forces and government Bosnian ARBiH forces that plagued central Bosnia. This was however about the only thing the western enclave had in its favour.

In addition to being completely surrounded by Serbian forces with the Republic of Serbian Krajina to the west and the Bosnian Republika Srpska (VRS) to the east, the Western enclave forces had to deal with the Autonomous Province of Western Bosnia and its leader Fikret Abdić.

AP Western Bosnia[]

The Autonomous Province of Western Bosnia was a de facto independent entity that existed in the Western enclave of present-day Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1993 and 1995. Its capital city was Velika Kladuša. In 1993 Fikret Abdić, once the president of the Agrokomerc company, decided to carve out a little state for himself and succeeded in recruiting enough followers to make his dream a reality. Abdić was able to hold power over his mini-state by using cult-like propaganda techniques over his followers and Serbian arms and military training. Local residents of Velika Kladusa were reported as treating Abdić "like a god" and "were ready to do whatever he said."[2]

Talking to his autonomist followers was much the same as speaking with cult converts anywhere in the world: a wooden dead-end dialogue hallmarked by the absence of individual rationale and logic.

5th Corps[]

Even though it was totally surrounded by Serbian forces and constantly harassed by Abdić's followers, the western enclave protected by the 5th Corps of the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (five infantry brigades strong) was able to hold its own and achieve some success partly thanks to the leadership of Atif Dudaković. By the summer of 1994, Dudaković had developed a plan in hopes of eliminating the Autonomous Province of Western Bosnia.

Secret plan[]

The plan was hatched by Dudaković and the commander of the 5th Corps 502nd Brigade, Hamdo Abdić (no relation to Fikret Abdić). In total secrecy, Hamdo approached Fikret Abdić as a dissatisfied military commander willing to sell his services and treachery to him for the right price. Fikret Abdić was suspicious but decided to take the risk and gave Hamdo a large sum of money, promising that if fighting broke out he would support Hamdo's coup attempt. Hamdo promptly informed Dudaković, who ordered that all aid workers be confined to quarters and that large fires be started using piles of tires to create the illusion of burning buildings. Then Dudaković told his dumbfounded troops to fire in the air as if they were fighting an invisible enemy.[1]

Fikret Abdić and his Serbian backers, watching from a distance, saw the smoke and heard the gunfire while listening to rattled aid workers yelling over their radio channels for extraction. Assuming they were seeing a military coup in progress, they promptly sent in their best weapons, troops and officers to support Hamdo Abdić. Abdić had been lured into a trap, and Dudaković and the still-loyal 5th Corps were able to force the swift surrender of his forces and seize badly needed weapons. The Serbian VRS and SVK turned out Fikret Abdić in a rage, and what was left of his demoralized forces had to face an attack by Dudaković's strengthened 5th Corps. They were quickly routed.[1]

The testimony of Colonel Patrick Barriot[]

Aftermath[]

Fikret Abdić was able to recapture the territory in December 1994 in Operation Spider. It was renamed to "Republic of Western Bosnia" in 1995.

As a consequence of the 1995 Operation Storm, the Republic of Western Bosnia was dissolved, its forces defeated and its territory was incorporated into the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (present day Una-Sana Canton).

Fikret Abdić was arrested and after the war he was convicted for acts of war crimes against civilian Bosniaks that stayed loyal to the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The government of Bosnia-Herzegovina charged him with the deaths of 121 civilians and three prisoners of war, and the wounding of 400 civilians in the Bihać region. Croatia, where he had taken refuge, refused to extradite him, but he was put on trial there. In 2002 he was sentenced to 20 years in prison for war crimes committed in the area of the "Bihać pocket".[4] In 2005 the Croatian Supreme Court reduced the sentence to 15 years.[5]

Other major counterattacks by both Croatian and Bosnian forces in western Bosnia included Croatian Operation Mistral 2 (September 1995) and Bosnian Operation Sana (October 1995). Further offensives were ended by the signing of the Dayton Agreement, largely thanks to pressure from those operations and the NATO bombardment of Bosnian Serbs.

The Serbian population of those areas of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina fled east, to Banja Luka and as far as Vojvodina and Kosovo. The United Nations estimated there were 150,000-200,000 refugees from Croatia alone. The number of refugees from western Bosnia is unknown.

References[]

  1. ^ a b c d Anthony Loyd (February 1, 2001). My War Gone By, I Miss It So. Penguin (Non-Classics). ISBN 0-14-029854-1.
  2. ^ Sarah Kenyon Lischer (2007). "Militarized Refugee Populations: Humanitarian Challenges in the Former Yugoslavia". MIT. Retrieved 2007-09-11. External link in |publisher= (help)
  3. ^ Colonel Patrick Barriot.Wednesday, 12 January 2005
  4. ^ "Concerns Pertaining to the Judiciary". Human Rights Watch. October 2004.
  5. ^ "Background Report: Domestic War Crime Trials 2005 (page 23)" (PDF). Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe mission in Croatia. 2006-09-13.