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The second category of attacks-on-the-margins is even more illustrative of the power of institutional setting. In 1992 and early 1993, gunmen carried out two highly publicized abductions of Sandžak Muslims near Priboj municipality, seizing a total of thirty-eight men. Although the evidence is slim, it is widely believed by local Muslims that the men were subsequently killed. Significantly, the abduction sites were carefully chosen so that they took place on slivers of Bosnian territory protruding into Serbia. The victims had strayed across the slivers because of the Bosnia-Serbia boundary's circuitous trajectory, which forced commuters to briefly pass through what had become in 1992 sovereign Bosnian territory.

The first kidnapping took place on October 22, 1992, when a commuter bus en route to Priboj from a small border village was stopped by paramilitaries as it crossed Bosnian territory. The gunmen searched the bus and forced off seventeen Muslim passengers, carting them off in a truck allegedly belonging to an ethnic Serb in nearby Priboj town.[33] The second attack took place on February 27, 1993, in Štrpci, a small village where the Belgrade-Bar railway briefly dips into Bosnia. The gunmen boarded the train, searched for Muslim passengers, and pulled off twenty-one persons, who then disappeared without a trace.[34]

Many observers suspect Milan Lukić, commander of a White Eagle contingent in the nearby Bosnian town of Višegrad, of organizing both abductions.[35] His precise motivations remain unclear, but observers offer different, equally plausible, theories. Some say Lukić hoped to use

the men for a prisoner swap that went bad, while others say he hoped to ransom the prisoners off. Still others argue that Lukić, together with powerful patrons in the Belgrade establishment, were trying to drag Yugoslavia into the Bosnian war. Many Muslims in Priboj think the abduction was a tacit threat signaling them to flee the region. Newspaper reports say Lukić came to Bosnia from Serbia early on in the war, embarking on a spate of killings of Bosnian Muslims and Serbs who tried to restrain him. The paramilitary leader appeared to enjoy close relations with Serbian and Yugoslav federal officers based near Priboj, who supplied him with weapons and other logistical support.[36]

Lukić's relations with the Republic of Serbia and the new Yugoslav federation were complex, however, exemplifying patterns of both cooperation and conflict. Although the paramilitary commander had powerful patrons in Serbia, other officials seemed concerned lest Lukić import Bosnia-style methods into the Sandžak.[37] Yugoslav federal forces had a sharp confrontation with Lukić right after the October 1992 Sjeverin bus abduction, for example, arresting him over the protests of his men, who vowed to kill local Sandžak Muslims in retaliation if Lukić was not set free. According to a local Serbian reporter, "Fingers were on the triggers all night" as paramilitaries tensely negotiated with government forces.[38] Lukić was released and was later seen traveling regularly between Bosnia and Yugoslavia, stopping off in Priboj. Still, he seemed to respect the integrity of the Serbian core, ensuring his next abduction again took place in Bosnian territory.

The official response to both kidnappings was sensitive to the institutional terrain in which they had occurred, tacitly rewarding the paramilitaries for their restraint in the Serbian core. In an interview, Predrag, Priboj's former mayor, stressed that the attacks took place in Bosnia, not Serbia, and that they were therefore not his responsibility. "Those terrible attacks were tragic," Predrag said, "but it is important to remember they did take place in the sovereign territory of another country. We can't be responsible for that."[39] At the time of the incident, Predrag told local Muslims, "The kidnapping happened on the territory of an internationally recognized state over which we have no jurisdiction."[40] As one Serbian parliamentarian noted approvingly, "Bosnia-Herzegovina is a recognized country. Therefore, it is legally difficult to launch an investigation on its territory."[41] The Serbian justice minister also noted that the abductions had taken place on the territory of "another state which is recognized and sovereign," and where "Serbia had no jurisdiction."[42] Slobodan Milošević took care to address the abductions himself,

emphasizing legal limitations posed by the kidnappers' use of Bosnian territory. "The moment I learned about the kidnapping," Milošević told Muslim representatives, "I personally contacted the highest authorities of … [Bosnia-Herzegovina] and received their firmest assurances … that the kidnapped citizens should be found and returned and … that the culprits should be caught and brought to trial." The problem, Milošević stressed, was that the Serbian police were "powerless on the other side [of the border]."[43] In emphasizing their inability to investigate crimes that took place inside Bosnia, Serbian authorities were essentially turning the tables on the international community, which had recognized Bosnian independence against their wishes. If Bosnia was now its own country, how could anyone hold Belgrade responsible for crimes committed on the wrong side of the boundary?

The Sandžak abductions received significant domestic and international publicity, compromising the Belgrade authorities' law-and-order image. Sandžak Muslims demonstrated in front of local officials' offices, demanding information and protesting in Belgrade and the Montenegrin capital.[44] Antiwar groups in Belgrade rallied to the cause, using the abductions in their own struggle against Serbian nationalism. Local papers of all political persuasions carried the story, which remained a mainstream Belgrade news item throughout 1993 and 1994. In response, Serbian officials reassured the public they were doing everything they could to locate the missing men, even though matters were complicated by the fact that the crimes had occurred on sovereign Bosnian territory. Slobodan Milošević promised he would move "heaven and earth, leaving no stone unturned" to find the abducted persons, and Husein, a Muslim political activist from Prijepolje, recalled that "everyone from the president on down made it very clear that they took this case seriously."[45] The republican governments of Serbia and Montenegro created investigative commissions and checked with Bosnian Serb authorities, but allegedly unearthed no new information. Sandžak Muslim leaders suspect that government officials know who the kidnappers are but refuse to prosecute for fear of revealing clandestine state ties to cross-border paramilitaries.

Serbian officials were discomfited by kidnappers' public challenge to their law-and-order image. Explained Jasmina, a Belgrade journalist and human rights investigator,

At that time, it was very unusual for twenty people to disappear like that in Serbia. You must understand how major an event it was. We were not at war, according to the government, and we were not involved in the Bosnian

fighting. It is very important to realize that the people who disappeared were Serbian citizens, even if they were Muslims. Serbian citizens!! Milošević promised the families of the missing he would turn over heaven and earth to find their relatives. Given the circumstances, he of course had to say that.[46]

Thus the same state that clandestinely helped organize ethnic cleansing in Bosnia felt obliged to publicly explain what actions it was taking to address the abduction of thirty-eight Muslims from Serbia proper.

The Serbian government had helped cross-border irregulars displace, wound, and kill thousands of Muslims inside Bosnia, but inside Sandžak, only 50 Muslims were killed out of a potential 200,000 victims. Both Muslim communities lived in Serb-controlled space, but their fates proved vastly different due to the effects of institutional setting. Belgrade's commitment to Serbian nationalism and covert cross-border operations was coupled with its desire to project an orderly, lawful image in its domestic sphere, and this had dramatic repercussions for repertoires of state violence. The Serbian-Bosnian border powerfully shaped Serbian conduct by separating Bosnian frontier from Serbian core.

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