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Thousands May Have To Return to War-Ravaged Mostar

April 7, 1994

MAKARSKA, Croatia (AP) _ Thousands of Bosnians who fled the war next door are outraged at Croatia’s decision to send them home.

Croatia canceled the refugee status of 15,000 people from Mostar in southwestern Bosnia-Herzegovina on Tuesday. Croats and Muslims battled over the city for nearly a year before agreeing to a cease-fire and a federation last month.

Mostar remains divided. The mostly Muslim eastern sector is without electricity or running water. Many homes have been burned or bombed to ruins.

″Where shall I return? To what?″ said Nedim Berberovic, 68, who says his Mostar home is a pile of debris.

A spokesman for Croatia’s refugee office in Zagreb, Josip Estereicher, said no one will be deported at once or before they have a home to return to. The handicapped and sick also are exempt from the order, he said.

Croatia is sheltering an estimated 300,000 refugees from Bosnia, as well as 250,000 people who fled their homes in the 1991 Serb-Croat war in Croatia. New Serb terror in northern Bosnia has brought 375 more just this week, and Croatia says it simply cannot take any more.

U.N. aid officials doubt many Mostar Muslims can leave.

″Any kind of organized return in their situation is too early,″ said Jacques Mouchet, head of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees mission in Croatia.

Sead Hrle, a 39-year-old economist, left his apartment in the Croat part of Mostar last summer. Many Muslim apartments there are now occupied by Croats or Croat refugees from central Bosnia.

″How will the people enter their apartments? The one who would try, would be shot on the spot,″ he said.

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