Bosnia's first gay festival to close after attacks

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Bosnia’s first gay festival will close early after hooded men, some shouting Islamic slogans, attacked visitors on its opening night, injuring eight people, organizers said on Thursday.

About 70 men, some shouting “God is greatest” in Arabic, dragged festival-goers from their cars and beat others in the streets of the Bosnian capital on Wednesday.

Sarajevo, known for centuries for the peaceful coexistence of its Muslims, Christians and Jews, became a majority Muslim city after the 1992-95 war.

“We cannot guarantee the safety of visitors,” said organizer Svetlana Djurkovic. “The festival is closing down.”

Djurkovic heads a group that promotes the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual groups.

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About 250 people attended the opening of the festival of art, film and workshops about sexual minorities, which was due to last four days. Police clashed with the attackers and said they would press charges against five men.

Srdjan Dizdarevic of the Bosnian branch of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights said the attacks violated “civilized standards.”

“The attacks hoped to annul individuality in society. The attackers used fascist rhetoric,” Dizdarevic said.

Islamic papers and magazines had criticized the timing of the festival, organizedduring the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Anonymous death threats were made against organizers, who said the timing was coincidental.

Editing by Daria Sito-Sucic and Opheera McDoom