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Protests

Bosnia protests take peaceful turn after Friday's riots

Demonstrations have largely turned peaceful in Bosnia, and the clean-up from Friday's violent riots is underway. But while a semblance of calm has returned, the protesters have vowed not to give up on their cause.

Hundreds protesting the country's rampant unemployment, which has nearly reached 40 percent, gathered in Sarajevo and several other cities on Saturday. Stones were thrown at the home of the head of the cantonal government in the north-western city of Bihac, but the gatherings were otherwise peaceful.

It came as a marked change from Friday, when at least 200 were injured and protesters stormed a number of government buildings across several cities, with some of them set on fire. In Sarajevo, Bosnia's presidency building and the national archive were set alight. In Tuzla, where the protests began on Wednesday, the regional parliament was torched.

Calm had returned somewhat on Saturday, with citizens in Tuzla returning to the street to sweep up rubble and broken glass from the riots. Despite the resignation of the local government in the industrial city, however, the protesters are set to stick to their cause.

"I'm glad we did it," Sanela Fetic, an unemployed 35-year-old, told news agency Reuters. "Now we'll clean up the mess, like we'll clean up the politicians who made this happen."

Demonstrators had taken to the streets in Tuzla to protest against job losses and corruption. Four privatized formerly state-owned companies have collapsed, with one in four people unemployed. Protests had spread to other cities by Thursday, and turned violent in Sarajevo on Friday.

'20 years of accumulated rage'

The fine ethnic balance struck in the wake of the 1992-1995 Bosnian War has hindered much-needed financial reforms and the country's chances of joining the European Union. The political inertia has led to the high levels of unemployment.

"This is about 20 years of accumulated rage coming to the surface, and it's very difficult to assess what will happen next," political analyst Enver Kazaz told Bosnian newspaper Dnevni Avaz.

"The protesters come mostly from a generation of youngsters without hope, whose future has practically been taken away from them."

ph/tj (Reuters, AP, dpa)

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