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Protests

Presidency building under fire as Bosnia protests continue

Protests have escalated in Bosnia, as demonstrators set fire to the country's presidency building in Sarajevo. Crowds of demonstrators are swelling as the protests continue in other cities.

News agency Reuters said police used water cannon to disperse the protesters, while two cars and a police guard's cabin outside the presidency building had also been set alight. The fire was quickly extinguished. Earlier on Friday, police had fired rubber bullets at protestors who set fire to the building in Sarajevo belonging to the canton government.

In Tuzla, where the protests began on Wednesday, newspaper Dnevni Avaz reported online that a crowd of demonstrators numbering around 6,000 hurled rocks at the seat of the regional authority. Reuters said the building was then set alight. Local media reported another government building, in the central town of Zenica, had also been burned.

Authorities said at least 90 people were injured in the protests - 80 in Sarajevo and 10 in Zenica.

The protests began in Tuzla when workers from several factories took to the streets demanding back pay, and an end to job losses and corruption. When the demonstrations turned violent, around 130 were injured, mainly from tear gas. An industrial city in the country's north, Tuzla has had four privatized formerly state-owned companies collapse, with one in four people in the city unemployed.

Unlikely support from main Serb city

The plight of the protestors struck a chord with a gathering of hundreds of people in the country's main Bosnian Serb city, Banja Luka.

"We gathered to support the protests in Tuzla, where people are fighting for their rights," activist Aleksandar Zolja told the Associated Press news agency.

The country's development has been stymied by its ethnical division, agreed upon after the end of the Bosnian War in 1995. While relatively peaceful since then, Bosnia has found it hard to introduce much-needed reforms.

Widespread privatization after the end of the war produced a handful of wealthy businessmen, but several companies - such as those in Tuzla - were stripped of their assets and filed for bankruptcy.

ph/lw (dpa, Reuters, AP)

DW.DE