Zagreb Is Rattled as Fighting Draws Closer : Yugoslavia: Croatian capital is blacked out for an hour. Serb-led forces hammer a strategic nearby town.
The Serb-led Yugoslav army pressed the civil war in breakaway Croatia Saturday, slamming the strategic Karlovac with a daylong bombardment and moving close enough to the Croat capital to force a total blackout.
The alert, the first of the war in Zagreb, emptied the streets of the Croatian capital, after six distant but powerful explosions reverberated through the city. A total blackout was imposed in the city of 1 million people.
The all-clear was broadcast an hour later, street lights lit up again and traffic began to move.
There were reports of tank and rocket fire in the village of Kravarsko, just 20 miles south of the capital and 15 miles north of Karlovac, a center of Baroque architecture where fighting raged all day, leaving three dead and 19 wounded.
Ten others were killed and 30 wounded in attacks on the industrial town of 80,000 people Friday.
Thousands of people have died since Croatia and neighboring Slovenia declared independence from Yugoslavia in June. Croatia has lost more than a third of its territory to the army and Serb irregulars in the war.
Saturday’s attack came as Serbian leaders prepared for a Monday conference designed to reform the shattered country.
“It is a real war where the fighting does not stop,” said a Radio Belgrade reporter reporting from the army side near Karlovac.
He said Croatian forces tried a tank and infantry attack from Karlovac, but were repulsed with the loss of four tanks.
On the Croatian side, a duty officer at the town’s crisis center said by telephone the bombardment continued without break since morning and all parts of the town were under fire.
“Two or three bombs hit the center every 15 or 30 minutes,” he said.
There no immediate details of the fighting near Zagreb.
Milan Babic, a Serbian leader, said the Monday conference in Belgrade would seek a “new Yugoslavia.”
“Whether it will be a closer community or an alliance of sovereign states with a single currency, a common market and a certain level of armed forces, will be decided by the states which see their future interests in preserving the continuity of Yugoslavia,” he told a Belgrade newspaper.
But, Babic acknowledged: “Slovenia and Croatia probably will not accept even the minimum . . . the Serbs advocate.”
If so, he added, the “new Yugoslavia” “will recognize Slovenia, and there is no reason not to recognize Croatia, but only when the border question is definitely recognized.”
Karlovac, the scene of Saturday’s fighting in Croatia, sits near the western border of the state dreamed of by Serbs and is tactically important because of its supply and communications links with the Adriatic coast.
The fighting in the town and in the rugged western Slavonia region nearby appeared to indicate that the most intense fighting was moving westward on a new front.
But Croatian radio also reported explosions in Osijek, a major river port in eastern Croatia.
Croatian President Franjo Tudjman said, however, despite the loss of territory his republic’s army was growing stronger and would be able to recapture the lost ground.