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Four Killed in Croatian Fighting, Marring Cease-Fire

August 11, 1991

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Renewed fighting on Sunday left two Croatian policemen dead in a setback to a tenuous cease-fire that had kept an uneasy peace in Croatia.

Federal officials monitoring the truce, however, reported no big fights between warring Serbs and Croats. And the new violence did not block an exchange of prisoners.

Croatian police were reported to have killed a fifth person, an armed Serb, in the troubled east Croatian region of Slavonia on Saturday.

The uneasy peace in Croatia had held since Wednesday.

Ten Serbs and 10 Croats were exchanged near Djakovo in Slavonia, Belgrade television reported.

The Croats had been held in the Serb stronghold of Borovo Selo, and the Serbs in the regional center of Osijek, the state news agency Tanjug said.

Three of the Serbs interviewed by Belgrade TV bore knife marks on their faces and claimed to have been threatened with torture. They said they had been held 20-40 days.

There was no independent confirmation of their claims.

Sunday’s swap was the second in as many days. Three Serbs and two Croats were exchanged late Saturday at Vinkovci in Slavonia. Tanjug said 70 other prisoners would be swapped Monday.

More than 200 people have died in fighting since Croatia declared independence June 25.

Irfan Ajanovic, a member of the federal commission monitoring the cease- fire, had no confirmation of the new deaths reported by Croatian media.

″There have been no contacts between the belligerent sides, and that is what is important to emphasize,″ Ajanovic told a news conference.

Federal officials have emphasized that snipers may be beyond the control of Croatian security forces or rebel Serbs.

Leaders of Serbia, the largest Yugoslav republic, say Croatia can leave Yugoslavia, but cannot take Serbs or their territory along. Croatian leaders have vowed not to cede land to its 600,000 Serbs, 12 percent of its population.

A Croatian policeman, Stjepan Mlakar, was reported killed and two others wounded when fired upon near Orahovica in eastern Croatia Sunday, Croatian radio said.

Another policeman, Ivan Majdancic, was killed and a colleague wounded near Kutina, 50 miles southeast of Zagreb, Croatian TV said.

Two other Croats, Ivan Rokvic and television cameraman Gordan Lederer, reportedly died late Saturday in a 2 1/2 -hour battle around Kostajnica, key to control of the Banija area that divides rebel Serb strongholds in western and eastern Croatia.

A bullet hit Lederer during a machine-gun attack, then a mortar bomb inflicted three fatal wounds, Croatian radio said.

Croatia objected to the composition of truce monitoring groups, delaying their dispatch, Ajanovic said. Talks were scheduled in Zagreb to iron out the hitches, which showed the difficulty in building trust between the Orthodox Serbs and Roman Catholic Croats, Yugoslavia’s two largest ethnic groups.

The fighting has caused tens of thousands of people on both sides to flee villages where they lived together for decades.

Political maneuvering by Serbia’s uncompromising president, Slobodan Milosevic, threatens, meanwhile, to spread conflict to the central state of Bosnia-Hercegovina.

The republic has a mixed population, just over 40 percent Muslim, about 30 percent Serb and 18 percent Croat.

Milosevic has invited its leaders and those from Serbia’s ally, Montenegro, to talks Monday in Belgrade on forming a new, smaller Yugoslavia.

Muslims and others fear that Milosevic wants to form a ″Greater Serbia,″ including chunks of territory in Bosnia and Croatia where Serbs live.

Disintegration of Bosnia could touch off conflicts with Muslims in southern Serbia and the ethnic Albanian majority in Serbia’s southern province of Kosovo.

Several hundred people reportedly traveled Sunday from Bosnia to Osijek, the capital of Slavonia, to call for peace.

But the state news agency Tanjug said they were greeted with taunts of ″You were sent by Milosevic,″ and ″Drive on to Dalj,″ a Danube River village where more than 80 Croatian police reportedly died fighting armed Serbs.

Police broke up the crowds before the visitors could begin a peace rally, Tanjug said.

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