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Yugoslav Jets and Gunboats Hit Croatia Port

From Reuters

Federal air force jets and navy gunboats blasted a key port Sunday, and Croatia seized control of about 20 army bases as fighting worsened in the breakaway republic.

Air raid sirens wailed in Zagreb, where terrified people ran for cover, fearing an attack on the Croatian capital. Croatian officials said two MIG fighter jets swooped low over the city in a provocation but did not open fire.

Fighting between Croatian forces and Serbian guerrillas backed by federal army units erupted in many parts of Croatia after the republic cut supplies to federal military bases Saturday to try to reverse recent crushing setbacks.

In a swift response to the blockade, air force jets and naval gunboats opened fire on the Adriatic port of Ploce after Croatian forces seized control of weapons in a military warehouse in the harbor, Croatian media said.

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Jets swept in repeatedly during a six-hour battle overnight, hitting two boats and buildings, including the warehouse in Ploce, 200 miles south of Zagreb.

Meanwhile, the army destroyed trucks the Croats were using to transport weapons.

Croatia said its forces sank a navy minesweeper and damaged three others.

It was the first major army offensive in southern Croatia, opening a new battlefront in the fighting, which started when Croatia’s Serbian minority took up arms to oppose the republic’s declaration of independence June 25.

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More than 400 people have been killed in the fighting, pushing the country of 23.5 million people close to collapse.

At least 29 people were reported dead in fierce clashes in southern, western and eastern Croatia in the wake of the blockade of army bases.

Croatia has lost a large swath of territory, but in one of its first successes in weeks, its blockade forced the surrender of 15 army barracks and other military installations in Zagreb, Croatians said. They also claimed to have captured several hundred federal soldiers as well as large supplies of arms.

Fears that the clashes would spread grew when the republic of Montenegro, a Serbian ally, said it was mobilizing two army units “because of a sudden deterioration of the political and security situation in Yugoslavia.”

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The European Community has tried to help the warring sides negotiate a cease-fire, but Croatia said Sunday that it might pull out of an EC peace conference if the fighting gets worse.


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