New Fighting Shatters Cease-Fire in Croatia
Croatian units blew up a key bridge Saturday and federal forces pounded Croatian positions from the ground and air as fierce fighting shattered a cease-fire established Aug 7.
The air strikes and deployment of troops to Okucani marked the military’s most direct intervention in Croatia since the truce took effect. At least 21 people have died since the cease-fire was declared by the Yugoslav collective presidency.
In an urgent session Saturday, the presidency demanded an immediate end to the fighting. “The cease-fire must be strictly respected, guarantees (regarding the separation of forces) given by all sides should be fulfilled,” said a statement carried by the Tanjug news agency.
A Yugoslav cease-fire monitoring team left Belgrade Saturday for eastern Croatia. Other groups are scheduled to leave today, according to Dragan Musulin, deputy head of the presidency’s information service.
On Saturday, 23 armored vehicles and 11 army trucks entered Okucani, where fighting began Thursday, the news service said. The town was mostly under the control of ethnic Serbs.
At least two Croatian soldiers were reported killed and nine wounded, and another 25 people were injured or missing.
In Stara Gradiska, Croatian forces blew up a bridge over the Sava River to halt an army column trying to approach from the south, said a report on Zagreb television. The river forms Croatia’s boundary with Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Federal fighter-bombers attacked a prison in Stara Gradiska used as a barracks by Croatia’s paramilitary Peoples’ Guard after one of its reconnaissance planes was fired upon from the roof. A Yugoslav air force statement said the building was hit with cannon fire and missiles.
About 30 Croatian police officers were reported to have surrendered to federal troops in a village near Knin, capital of the self-proclaimed Serbian province of Krajina in western Croatia.
Other clashes were reported throughout Croatia. Witnesses reported mortar shelling at Osijek, the capital of the Slavonia region of eastern Croatia.
Hundreds of peace activists marched in Zagreb and Belgrade on Saturday with petitions appealing for an end to the violence. Tanjug said Croatian President Franjo Tudjman met with the marchers and signed their petition. Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic did not meet with the protesters and sent an envoy, who declined to sign the petition.