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Soldier Reported Killed in Protest in Croatia

May 6, 1991

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Thousands of Croatian protesters converged today on the Yugoslav naval command in the Adriatic port of Split and killed a military guard, the official Tanjug news agency said.

The news agency, quoting Split’s mayor, Onisim Cvitan, said the killing occurred when demonstrators attacked two armored personnel carriers posted in front of the command center.

Tanjug estimated the crowd at 30,000 people.

No details were available on exactly how the soldier died, but the news agency quoted Admiral Jozo Erceg as saying shots were fired from the crowd.

He was quoted as saying the military did not shoot back, but dispersed the crowd with tear gas.

The attack in the Croatian port city was part of an outbreak of violence between ethnic Serbs and Croats, Yugoslavia’s two largest ethnic groups.

Ethnic Serbs, who make up about 11 percent of the Croatian republic’s 5 million people, have been in virtual rebellion since last summer.

At least 15 people, mostly Croatian police, were killed in fighting between the police and armed Serb civilians on Thursday in villages on the Croatian side of the border between the two republics. Tanjug quoted local officials as saying the toll was at least 19.

Demonstrators in Split were protesting an army blockade of Kijevo, a predominantly Croat village to the north.

Federal army units were posted there in April to prevent a possible assault by armed civilians from Knin, a town with a predominantly ethnic Serb population located just to the north.

Villages in eastern Croatia about 115 miles northeast of Split were in their fourth day of nearly total isolation behind barricades erected by the federal army, local police and armed civilians since Thursday’s fighting.

All traffic from the town of Vukovar, 80 miles northwest of Belgrade, to surrounding villages has been virtually blocked, witnesses said.

Food supplies were running out, and there were long lines for milk. On Sunday, Vukovar Mayor Stipe Lovrencevic appealed to the Croatian government to ask the army to allow food trucks through its blockades.

An Associated Press photographer, Dusan Vranic, was hit in the face and sprayed with tear gas when he was stopped by armed Croatian civilians in Vukovar. His nose was broken.

Serbs are the largest ethnic group in the country of 24 million people and Croats are the second-largest. Their traditional rivalry has been intensified by their differing views of Yugoslavia’s future.

Croatia’s center-right government of republican President Franjo Tudjman ousted Communists last year and now wants to turn the federation into a loose association of states.

Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and his Communists remain firmly in power in that republic, and want to maintain centralized control.

The collective Yugoslav presidency scheduled another meeting Friday to review the conflict.

Update hourly