Alija Izetbegovic, a devout Muslim whose religion and politics landed him in Yugoslav jails but who went on to lead the Bosnian people through a cataclysmic war and eventually into independence, died yesterday in a Sarajevo hospital. He was 78.
Izetbegovic, who suffered from chronic heart disease, was admitted to the hospital Sept. 10 with broken bones and bruises from a fall. His condition became critical Friday, when doctors were unable to stop bleeding in his left lung, the hospital said.
He was in many ways the father of today's Bosnia, proclaiming its sovereignty from Yugoslavia in 1992 before the federation collapsed, austerely waging a largely defensive and losing war, and finally serving in the new country's first postwar, three-member presidency.
But his enemies questioned his skill and attacked his motives, suspicious that he harbored desires to install an Islamic state in the Balkans.
Izetbegovic said repeatedly that he favored a multiethnic and democratic Bosnia.
Citing health reasons, Izetbegovic stepped down in October 2000, five years after the U.S.-brokered Dayton accord ended the war.
The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.