Mercenaries in Bosnia have varying motives But the fighting attracts them all

June 06, 1993|By Cox News Service

TOMISLAVGRAD, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- If there is such a thing as a nice mercenary, R. E. Krott appears to be him.

The 30-year-old American, who declined to reveal his first name, admits that he came to Bosnia-Herzegovina because he likes "bang bang."

But he also is polite and articulate.

Another mercenary, a German with a swastika on his sleeve, was not a nice guy. He limped into the hotel, dropped into a chair and pulled up his trouser leg to show off a shrapnel wound. He said he came to Bosnia so that he could "kill Communists legally."

It was a recent Sunday afternoon, and 10 mercenaries -- soldiers for hire who call themselves "Mercs" -- had gathered at a run-down hotel in this Bosnian town. They were drinking beer, trying without luck to pick up the young women at the next table, but mainly boasting of exploits in the war in the former Yugoslavia.

The conflict has attracted hundreds of these mercenaries -- some hardened professionals, others less well-trained. Some are simply looking for wars they can't find in their own countries.

But the Germans, many of them neo-Nazis, see the war as a fight waged against communism. They view themselves as being on a mission of solidarity with Croatians, who formed the Nazi puppet government during World War II.

Canadian Nicholas Glasnovich is also fighting for a cause in Bosnia, although his motives are different. At 39, he is a commander of Croatian-Bosnian forces in Tomislavgrad and is himself Croatian-born.

"I couldn't sit there in front of the TV and watch the Serbs burning churches, destroying everything that is Croatia," said Mr. Glasnovich. "I think it was inevitable that I end up here."

His twin brother, Davor Glasnovich, also joined the Croatian army out of a sense of mission. A military magazine free-lancer until his stint in Croatia, he was ambushed by Serbs last year.

"I thought he was dead and then I saw him on CNN," Nicholas Glasnovich said. "His ears were cut off. He's in the same prison my grandfather was in in 1925."

Perhaps because of Mr. Glasnovich's leadership, Tomislavgrad has become "Merc" central, a landing strip for professional soldiers from all over the world -- most notably Western Europe and the United States.

Mr. Glasnovich said his men train Croatian soldiers and sometimes travel to the front lines in eastern Bosnia.

They don't make much money -- about $100 a month. The mercenaries did not say who paid them but said they were working with the Croatian-Bosnian forces in Bosnia.

It's the fighting that attracts them, and the "Mercs" in the hotel complained that there has not been much of that lately.

"It's the slowest place I've been," said Paul, 28, a former member of the British army. He said he found Northern Ireland more exciting because it's a "terrorist, sniper war."

They were also frustrated with the Croatian forces, young men who view the new freedom in the former Yugoslavia as free rein to do whatever they want, Mr. Krott said.

"They've watched a couple of Rambo movies, and they think they're heroes," he said. "It's not exactly anarchy, but libertarianism. We've resorted to kicking them, literally."

Mr. Krott looked as though he would be comfortable in a place where civilized behavior rules. And in fact, he said he is headed for a fairly straight job.

After his Bosnia experience, he said, he is to take a job as an analyst for a defense consulting firm in the United States. "You need this experience to get those jobs," he said.

He said he spent several years in Central America, where the United States supported the contra guerrillas that tried to topple Nicaragua's Sandinista government. Mr. Krott did not say exactly what it was he did there.

Although the United States has been involved in numerous wars and invasions in recent years, the chances that a U.S. soldier gets to be deployed are not good, Mr. Krott said.

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