More Muslims, Croats Flee Serb-Controlled Banja Luka With AM-Yugoslavia
ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) _ A group of 469 Muslim and Croat refugees have crossed into Croatia from the Serbian stronghold of Banja Luka in northwestern Bosnia, a sign of increasing harassment of non-Serbs in the Banja Luka area.
Tuesday’s exodus was the largest of its kind this year. In all, 2,400 non- Serbs have fled the area since January.
″There are continuing attacks against civilians in Banja Luka,″ said Peter Kessler of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees office in Zagreb.
U.N. officials report increasing Serb use of threats, terror and murder to drive non-Serbs from the region, a practice that has become known in Bosnia’s war as ″ethnic cleansing.″
″They came with little luggage, leaving everything behind. But in spite of everything, these people are happy they got out,″ said Franjo Pavlovic, head of Croatia’s Red Cross in Nova Gradiska, where the refugees crossed into Croatia.
One nine-member family that arrived Tuesday had to pay about $1,385 for clearance to leave.
Banja Luka became the de facto Bosnian Serb military headquarters when war broke out in April 1992.
The city’s prewar population of 200,000 was 55 percent Serb. Nearly 50,000 people, mainly Muslims and Croats, have since left.
The region was the site of three major Serb-run detention centers that held tens of thousands of Muslims and Croats before the camps were dismantled in late 1992.
Last month, 20 Muslim and Croat civilians were killed in their homes in the area. Bosnian Serb authorities blamed local gangs.