The Croat Defence Council Take-overs in Central Bosnia
Pressured and contained by heavily armed Serb forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia, the major Croat force – the HVO (Croatian Defence Council) shifted their focus from defending their parts of Bosnia from Serbs to trying to capture remaining territory held by Bosnian Army. It is widely believed that this was due to the Karađorđevo agreement (March 1991) reached between presidents Slobodan Milošević and Franjo Tuđman to split Bosnia between Croatia and Serbia.
To accomplish this, HVO forces would have to both quell dissent from the Croatian Defence Forces (HOS) armed group and defeat the Bosnian Army, since the territory that they wanted was under Bosnian government control. HVO with great engagement from the Military of Republic of Croatia and material support from Serbs, attacked Bosniak civilian population in Herzegovina and in central Bosnia starting an ethnic cleansing of Bosniak populated territories.
The Graz agreement of May 1992 caused deep division inside the Croat community and strengthened the separation group, which led to the conflict with Bosniaks. One of the primary pro-union Croat leaders was Blaž Kraljević, the leader of the Croatian Defence Forces (HOS) armed group, which also had a Croatian nationalist agenda but unlike HVO it fully supported cooperation with the Bosniaks.
In June 1992 the focus switched to Novi Travnik and Gornji Vakuf where the Croat Defence Council (HVO) efforts to gain control were resisted.
On 18 June 1992 the Bosnian Territorial Defence in Novi Travnik received an ultimatum from the HVO that included demands to abolish existing Bosnia and Herzegovina institutions, establish the authority of the Croatian Community of Herzeg-Bosnia and pledge allegiance to it, subordinate the Territorial Defense to the HVO and expel Muslim refugees, all within 24 hours. The attack was launched on 19 June. The elementary school and the Post Office were attacked and damaged. Gornji Vakuf was initially attacked by Croats on 20 June 1992, but the attack failed. (See: Lašva Valley ethnic cleansing)
Vastly underequipped Bosnian forces, fighting on two fronts, were able to repel Croats and gain territory against them on every front. At this time, due to its geographic position, Bosnia was surrounded by Croat and Serb forces from all sides. There was no way to import weapons or food. What saved Bosnia at this time was its vast Industrial complex (Steel and Heavy Industries) that was able to switch to military hardware production.
In August 1992, HOS leader Blaž Kraljević was killed by HVO soldiers, which severely weakened the moderate group who hoped to keep the alliance between Bosniaks and Croats alive.
The situation became more serious in October 1992 when Croat forces attacked Bosniak civilian population in Prozor burning their homes and killing civilians. According to Jadranko Prlić indictment, HVO forces cleansed most of the Muslims from the town of Prozor and several surrounding villages.
In October 1992 the Serbs captured the town of Jajce and expelled the Croat and Bosniak population. The fall of the town was largely due to a lack of Bosniak-Croat cooperation and rising tensions, especially over the previous four months.
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