Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Thugs 'Cleanse' Sarajevo Suburb So Serbs Won't Mix with Muslims Fellow Serbs Who'd like to Stay Behind Are Harassed or Killed

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Thugs 'Cleanse' Sarajevo Suburb So Serbs Won't Mix with Muslims Fellow Serbs Who'd like to Stay Behind Are Harassed or Killed

Article excerpt

FOR Serb thugs, finding easy targets to harass and to intimidate is not difficult. Potential victims in the Serb-held Sarajevo district of Grbavica are few in number and are cowering in their apartments, waiting at night for a malicious knock on their door.

For weeks they have been subject to what United Nations officials describe as a reign of terror at the hands of criminals and their own Bosnian Serb authorities, who want them to flee before the area is transferred to the Muslim-led Bosnian government next Tuesday.

To combat the growing lawlessness, a UN police force has increased its presence and NATO-led peacekeeping troops are stepping up patrols. But the moves are late in coming, residents say, and they are terrified. Already, the majority of the Serbs who withstood 3-1/2 years of war here have left. The UN expects that only a few hundred people - out of a population of 5,000 - will remain.

Grbavica is the last of five Sarajevo districts to change hands as part of the Dayton peace agreement, but the oppressive air that hangs in the war-damaged high-rise apartment buildings makes the work of roving gangs easier. Other suburbs have been burned by fleeing Serbs, and here the fires are starting.

"We've heard that people want to create a spectacle, so that Sarajevo can see Grbavica burn," says one Serb woman, who still lives with her husband in an apartment overlooking the Bosnian capital. Their building and all the others on the hill are said to be pinpointed by the gangs for bombing or the torch. They talk quietly of putting blankets over the windows so any grenades thrown from outside will drop directly on to the floor. They are not armed. The thugs, they are warned, can even make a silencer for their pistols from a soda bottle. No one is safe.

"I don't think there is anything left to burn, and in some places they have even taken up the parquet floor," she says, while fumbling to organize fire extinguishers and flashlights. The electricity has been turned off by the Serb authorities, and the natural gas supplies fluctuate.

The couple's decision to stay is impossible to hide and makes them vulnerable. Every other apartment in the building has been stripped and abandoned. …

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