Demonstrators have set fire to a section of the presidency building in the Bosnian capital city of Sarajevo as the anti-government protests have spread across the country.
AP news agency reported that central Sarajevo was in chaos on Friday night with buildings and cars burning and riot police in full gear chasing protesters and pounding batons against their shields to get the crowd to disperse.
At least 200 people were injured in Friday’s clashes, according to AP.
Also on Friday, protesters set fire to a local government building in the northern town of Tuzla, the hotspot of violence that began on Tuesday. Authorities in Tuzla had ordered schools to cancel classes earlier in the day.
AFP news agency reported that about 100 hooded men were seen storming the building with flames, and thick smoke billowing from the first floor windows a short while after. Protesters outside prevented two fire engines from reaching the building.
At least 6,000 people took to the streets in Tuzla, according to Reuters news agency, who also reported that protesters lobbed stones at police in Sarajevo.
Al Jazeera’s Alma Brnicanin reported that demonstrators gathered in the northern city of Bihac on Friday.
Tuzla’s protests spread to other parts of the country on Thursday and have morphed into widespread discontent in an election year about unemployment and rampant corruption.
Police on Thursday fired teargas to drive back several thousand people throwing stones, eggs and flares at a local government building in Tuzla, once the industrial heart of Bosnia’s north, which has been hit hard by factory closures in recent years.
A strong police contingent dispersed the crowd in the evening after protesters started rioting, smashing shop windows and setting garbage bins on fire, a Tuzla police spokesman said.
The town’s emergency service said it admitted 104 police officers who were seriously hurt, and 30 civilians with lighter injuries.
Hundreds of people turned out in solidarity protests in Sarajevo and the towns of Zenica, Bihac and Mostar. In Sarajevo, protesters clashed with police who had blocked traffic in the city centre. Four officers were taken to hospital, officials said.
The prime minister of Bosnia’s autonomous Bosniak-Croat federation, where the protests took place, held an emergency meeting with regional security ministers and prosecutors.
“We put on one side the workers who were left without basic rights, such as pensions and health benefits … , and on the other side all hooligans who used this situation to create chaos,” Prime Minister Nermin Niksic said after the meeting.
“We will not come to the solution by destroying property, damaging vehicles and windows and fighting the police,” Niksic said.
The protests highlight public resentment over the political bickering that has stifled governance and economic development since the 1992-1995 war in the Balkan country.
The protesters were initially made up mainly of workers laid off when state-owned companies that were sold off collapsed under private ownership. They have been joined by thousands of jobless people and youths.
At 27.5 percent, Bosnia’s unemployment rate is the highest in the Balkans.