Ceausescu Loyalists Fight On : Romania: Sniper fire, roadblocks and burning buildings mark Bucharest. ‘There is no government,’ a diplomat says.


Some of Europe’s worst urban warfare since World War II continued to rage in Bucharest and other Romanian cities on Sunday despite a warning by Romania’s new provisional government that those opponents who fail to lay down their arms will be punished “promptly and mercilessly.”

The sights and sounds of anarchy--sniper fire, roadblocks and flaming buildings--dominated the capital as army units and their civilian allies fought on to dislodge forces still loyal to deposed dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.

“There is no government,” said one Western diplomat. “Nobody seems to be in charge.”

Bucharest Radio insisted that army troops supporting the popular uprising which last Friday deposed Ceausescu were in control of all strategic points in the country, and that some fighters loyal to the old regime had begun to surrender.


But other loyalists, though badly outnumbered, were still putting up a savage struggle that surprised even those who have long viewed them as an extraordinarily ruthless, well-trained and fanatic force.

With the city’s airport still closed and the scene of heavy fighting, the U.S., Canadian, Israeli and Japanese embassies evacuated more than a 150 dependents by car Sunday afternoon to the Bulgarian border.

As if to underscore the need for that evacuation, more than 30 dependents of British officials were forced to abandon their embassy later in the day and seek refuge in the American compound after the British ambassador’s residence, which overlooks some of the heaviest fighting, caught fire. The Britons had chosen not to join the earlier evacuation.

Romanian army sources told Reuters news agency in Bucharest that there appeared to be about 3,000 Ceausescu loyalists providing the backbone of a bloody resistance that the Red Cross estimated had claimed up to 5,000 lives over the weekend alone.

Even more were reported killed earlier in Timisoara, where Romania’s popular uprising began 10 days ago.

More than half the holdouts are believed to be in the Romanian capital, where, traveling in plain clothes through a secret network of subterranean passageways and with access to hidden stockpiles of arms and ammunition, they have wreaked havoc by firing from roofs and top-floor apartments on soldiers and civilians below.


Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, were reported in army custody on Saturday, although no details of his alleged capture have yet been revealed, and the so-called Front of National Salvation has produced no evidence that he is actually in the new government’s hands.

Soviet state television reported without elaboration Sunday that the couple were apprehended while hiding in an underground bunker. At about the same time, Bucharest Radio said that soldiers have found a vast network of safehouses and secret tunnels criss-crossing the city. The tunnels were stocked with arms, ammunition and electronic monitoring equipment, according to the report.

The Ceausescus’ son, Nicu, was arrested and shown on television Friday, and on Sunday it was revealed that their daughter, Zoia, was also being held at the state television studios which have become an important headquarters of the revolution.

A spokesman for the provisional government said Ceausescu has not been shown on television because of concern that his appearance might inspire the dreaded Securitate, the dictator’s secret police and his own private guard, to step up their last-ditch struggle.

In Switzerland, meanwhile, the justice minister said Sunday that the government has imposed a “precautionary” freeze on any assets the Ceausescus might have in that country. The authorities acted after Romanian exile groups said that the deposed dictator had stashed up to $400 million worth of gold in Zurich.

Romanian television continued to be one of the diehard security forces’ primary targets Sunday. Interviewed from a studio in the station in the afternoon, Independent Television News correspondent Paul Davies reported that the building had come under bazooka attack minutes before.


“These attacks came all day yesterday, into the night, into the early morning. We had a lull for two or three hours, and now they’re starting again,” he said, adding: “It’s one thing to have soldiers and tanks around the building; it’s another to actually secure it.”

At one point early Sunday, Ceausescu supporters in civilian clothes reportedly penetrated the building, killing a woman and wounding two men in a knife and rifle attack before being subdued.

Throughout the afternoon, the sound of sniper fire from rooftops scattered crowds around the city. And residents nervously talked of reports that Securitate men attacked hospitals early Sunday, destroying blood supplies and seizing ambulances in which they reportedly cruised the city, shooting into crowds.

In the city’s central square, the Plaza of the Republic, tanks and armored personnel carriers stood guard and the sound of machine-gun fire echoed off the still-burning shells of wrecked buildings.

In the main university library, which faces the square, a huge fire raged out of control for a second day. Across the square, young men in civilian clothes carrying knives and semi-automatic rifles guarded the former headquarters of the Central Committee of the Romanian Communist Party, now being used by the army and the civilian committees of the Front of National Salvation.

Trucks, buses, cement mixers, trolleys and overturned tables and chairs were used to block traffic in the streets as residents searched for Securitate agents. Virtually every neighborhood in the city’s central area had roadblocks protected by nervous-looking young men, some armed with automatic rifles, others with clubs, bats and pieces of wood.


A drive at mid-afternoon to the city center from the southern edge of the city, a distance of only a few miles, required passage though nine separate roadblocks, some no more than two blocks apart. At each stop, the blockaders searched all cars, looking in trunks and under hoods, eyeing foreigners suspiciously and demanding to see passports.

Pedestrians, even small children and elderly women, were routinely being patted down in the search for weapons.

The provisional government set up by the army and the Front of National Salvation has appealed to the public to avoid further revenge attacks which, it said, had reached “alarming proportions.” Where possible, army troops protected prisoners against angry mobs of Romanians. But by and large the plea seems to have been ignored in the streets.

A Western diplomat reported seeing a Securitate agent beaten to death by a crowd that seized him at a roadblock. Another agent captured after being refused refuge at a Western embassy was beaten and taken away in a car by armed men.

The greatest fury appears to be directed at agents of the elite anti-terrorist squads, known by their Romanian initials, USLA, who are blamed for the worst of the shooting here.

The anger in the streets has been further inflamed by constantly repeated but never verified rumors that Ceausescu loyalists are being aided by foreign mercenaries, variously described as Asian or Arab--Libyan, Palestinian or Syrian. These reports have made many Romanians suspicious of nearly all foreigners.


Ceausescu reportedly had provided training grounds in the countryside for terrorist groups, and he had maintained close security links with North Korea and some hard-line Arab states.

Reuters news agency quoted Lt. Col. Georges Ionesco as saying that six men killed in Saturday night fighting were believed to be Syrians, and a Reuters photographer visiting a Bucharest hospital quoted medical personnel as saying that some of the Securitate men they had treated were Arabs.

A British Broadcasting Corp. radio correspondent with long experience in the region reported that he saw a wounded Securitate man in the hospital “who looked suspiciously Asian.”

The BBC man added, however, that while “I’m sure there are foreigners who have been fighting on behalf of Ceausescu . . . I suspect the number is greatly exaggerated by the popular imagination here.”

Securitate forces in Iasi, near the Soviet border, were reported to have surrendered en masse Sunday, triggering celebrations throughout the town. Foreign and Romanian television broadcasts monitored in the West also showed what were reputed to be uniformed, loyalist forces who switched sides during the day and are now supporting the army. And the Yugoslav news agency Tanjug said more than 40 security troops, including a number of women, had surrendered in Timisoara.

It was not immediately clear whether the new government’s call for a cease-fire at mid-afternoon Sunday had played a role in the surrenders. Its warning appeared to apply both to pro-Ceausescu forces and armed vigilante bands seeking revenge against them.


Anyone other than army troops who have weapons should turn them over by 5 p.m. today, according to the provisional government announcement.

“Not one more drop of blood should be shed,” it said, adding that anyone violating the cease-fire would be punished “promptly and mercilessly.”

Outside of Bucharest, the military situation was spotty.

A BBC television crew encountered 46 checkpoints in the 250-mile drive from the Hungarian border to the capital, all of them apparently manned by anti-Ceausescu militias and the army. But a local army commander warned the crew against traveling certain routes.

In Timisoara, four journalists and a diplomat were wounded by snipers or men manning roadblocks Saturday night and early Sunday.

State radio also reported fighting in Sibiu and Brasov, two more towns that were considered strongholds of Ceausescu’s secret police.

In the border town of Giurgiu, residents told reporters that 15 people had been killed Saturday afternoon when Securitate members seized a church and a neighboring apartment building


Meanwhile, the first convoys of outside medical aid began to reach the capital in the afternoon. Crowds cheered as the first such parade of trucks arrived.

The convoy had started out from the Bulgarian border town of Ruse, carrying 21 doctors and 15 nurses from French civil defense forces as well as others from the Paris-based humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders. The doctors brought with them several tons of hospital beds, blood supplies and vitally needed medical equipment.

Other aid teams arrived later from the Red Cross. And the Czechoslovak news agency CTK said the first shipment of medicines from Czechoslovakia had reached Timisoara by road.

Hungary also sent a convoy to the western Romanian border region.

The 35-mile drive from the Bulgarian border to Bucharest took several hours as the convoy wound its way through farm villages, many of which were slated to be destroyed in the sweeping rural reconstruction program that Ceausescu had began imposing on the countryside several years ago.

The towns looked mostly peaceful, in marked contrast with the capital. In one village, public buildings displayed the new version of the Romanian flag--the traditional red, yellow and blue banner with a large hole in the center where the Communist insignia had been cut out.

In Moscow, an official of the Soviet Health Ministry said 200 doctors and medics were standing by to help but that the ministry had been unable to assure their safe passage across the Soviet-Romanian border.


The British Red Cross said it has been inundated with donations to a special Romanian appeal fund. “The response has been terrific,” said Director General John Burke-Gaffney. But another official stressed that the needs in Romania are so great that more help is needed.

Lauter reported from Bucharest and Fisher from London.

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