Thousands of war vets rally in Croatian capital

AP News
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Posted: Feb 26, 2011 12:38 PM
Thousands of war vets rally in Croatian capital

Croatian police clashed with some of the 15,000 anti-government protesters who rallied in the capital Saturday, and state television reported that officers used tear gas to disperse the group. At least 25 people were injured.

Dozens of mostly young demonstrators charged at a police cordon preventing them from reaching a central square in Zagreb where the government headquarters is located, Croatian TV said.

The protesters threw stones and bricks at police, who responded with tear gas, the report said, adding that several people were injured and nearby windows were broken. Police set up metal fences to corral the crowd, the report added, describing the situation as "chaos."

Croatian police said they detained 60 protesters and that 12 police and 13 citizens were injured.

The protests in Zagreb come just two days after several hundred protesters clashed with police at another anti-government rally. Many Croats blame the government for economic hardship and alleged corruption.

At another Zagreb square, thousands protested peacefully against the government and in support of a Croat war veteran awaiting extradition to Serbia in a Bosnian prison. They carried banners reading "Croat defenders are heroes" and "Stop the prosecution of Croat defenders."

The organizers, veterans' groups from Croatia's 1991-95 war, said hundreds of protesters were prevented by police from reaching the event, the Hina news agency reported.

About 1,000 people gathered at a similar protest in the eastern town of Osijek, demanding the government's ouster, Hina reported. The agency said that protest was organized through Facebook as was the rally in Zagreb on Thursday.

Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor has urged an end to the protests, warning that instability could undermine Croatia's efforts to join the European Union. President Ivo Josipovic has appealed for the protests to remain peaceful.

The Serb-Croat war erupted when Croatia declared independence from Serb-led Yugoslavia.