PROTESTERS in Bosnia set fire to government buildings and fought with riot police yesterday as anger over unemployment and political inertia fuelled a third day of the worst civil unrest in the country since a 1992-95 war.

Tear gas and smoke blanketed downtown Sarajevo, where police opened fire with rubber bullets on several thousand protesters who set fire to the headquarters of the capital's cantonal government.

In the northern town of Tuzla, protests over factory closures turned violent for a third day. Demonstrators stoned and torched the seat of the local authority and clashed with police. Trapped by the flames, some leapt from windows, a press photographer said.

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A government building in the central town of Zenica was also set alight, local media reported. Protesters, many of whom heeded calls on Facebook to take to the streets, chanted "Thieves!" and "Revolution!"

Starting on Wednesday in Tuzla, once the industrial heart of northern Bosnia, small protests have spread to towns and cities across the impoverished former Yugoslav republic, where more than one in four of the workforce are jobless.

The civil unrest is unprecedented in post-war Bosnia, where Serbs, Croats and Muslim Bosniaks have tolerated political stagnation for years rather than risk a return to conflict.