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Source: 1995 Copyright via Reuter Information Service

Five mujahideen killed in Bosnia shootout

ZAGREB (Dec 15, 1995 - 17:05 EST) - Five Islamic fighters from the Middle East were killed in a clash with police in Bosnia and two policemen were injured, Croatia's Hina news agency reported on Friday.

It quoted the prosecutor in the central Bosnia town of Vitez, Zeljko Perincic, as saying the incident happened on Thursday near the town of Zepce, about 35 km (25 miles) further north.

The Islamic Media Monitoring Centre in Cairo earlier reported that authorities in Croatia had killed Sheikh Amwar Shaaban, described as the "emir of mujahideen (holy fighters) battalion," in an ambush inside Croatia.

An estimated 4,000 mujahideen, Islamic volunteers from Moslem countries, fought with the Moslem-led government army during the 3 1/2-year Bosnia war.

Hina quoted Perincic as saying five foreigners from Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and Algeria refused to stop at a checkpoint between Croat- and Moslem-held territory in Bosnia.

They were later stopped by two civilian policemen near Zepce who warned them armed persons were not allowed on the road without an escort. The mujahideen refused to obey, started shooting and wounded one of the policemen, Hina said.

When additional police arrived from Zepce, the mujahideen opened fire on them, seriously wounding one of them. The police returned fire, killing all five mujahideen, Hina reported.

Perincic was quoted as saying members of the British battalion from Zepce were present at an inspection conducted by local police and civil authorities.

Hina said investigators agreed foreign citizens had violated a joint Bosnian-Croat agreement on informing each other in advance of their movements, and had been the first to attack the police.

The clash was reported by U.N. officials on Thursday within hours of the Paris peace signing ceremony, breaking a battlefield silence since an October ceasefire.

The U.N. said the incident happened after a vehicle from the El-Mujahid unit attached to the Third Corps of the Bosnian army based in the central Bosnian town of Zenica refused to stop at a joint U.N. and Croat checkpoint outside Zepce.

"The HVO (Bosnian Croat militia) then got into a vehicle and chased them to a junction and a firefight broke out," said U.N. spokesman Major Lindsay Rumgay from the region's main U.N. base in Gornji Vakuf 80 km (50 miles) west of Sarajevo.

"We consider this a local matter," said Rumgay, adding that it was the first incident of its kind for some time.

The Croats and Bosnian army fought against one another in 1993 but were allies against Bosnian Serbs both before and after that flare-up.

The peace deal for Bosnia signed in Paris requires all foreign troops to leave the country within 30 days.

The United States, which is sending 20,000 troops to Bosnia as part of a 60,000-strong NATO peace enforcement effort, is particularly keen the mujahideen leave lest they become involved in actions against U.S. forces.

Bosnian government officials have made verbal commitments to the United States that the mujahideen will leave and U.S. officials said on Wednesday that there were signs the foreign troops were preparing to depart.