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Muslim and Croat Refugees Find New ‘Homes’ in Recaptured Lands

September 28, 1995

KLJUC, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ Sitting patiently outside what passes for City Hall in this western Bosnian town, Sulejman Tihic waits for a cow to put in his new backyard, vacated by fleeing Serbs only 10 days ago.

``We each got a house and some land,″ says Tihic, one of thousands of Muslims who have fled Serb-held northern Bosnia in the past two months. ``This is not home ... but at least I can sleep calmly again.″

Like Serbs also forced from their homes in Bosnia’s shifting fortunes of war, Tihic is a pawn in an emerging plan to divide the country along ethnic lines as part of a peace plan.

He is moving into an area recently abandoned by Serbs, who had held it since 1992, when resurgent Croat and Muslim forces forced them to flee.

Further north, in Serb-held territory, authorities had already begun purging the last few thousand of a half-million Croats and Muslims who once lived there. Those houses are being occupied by Serb refugees.

Many of the Croats and Muslims headed north for Croatia but were told that the only place for them to go was newly recaptured western Bosnia. Already burdened with 300,000 refugees, Croatia has announced plans to send as many as 100,000 to western Bosnia.

About 300 Muslims arrived last Saturday in Kljuc, one of a score of towns Serbs abandoned to roving dogs and livestock. Kljuc is now being apportioned to the newcomers.

Part of a larger group of 2,000, they were among the last remaining Muslims from Prnjavor in northern Bosnia.

``They told us this was our last chance,″ said Tihic, whose weathered peasant face makes him appear older than his 55 years.

About two weeks ago, Tihic said, police beat him and his neighbor. Tihic, his wife and three children finally decided it was time to go.

Aden Hodzic, a 47-year-old carpenter, said it was ``impossible to live in Prnjavor.″ He described a life of systematic terror as non-Serbs were fired from jobs, robbed and beaten by police.

``It is good to be among one’s own people,″ said Tihic, though he admitted feeling ``a little uncomfortable living in a Serb house.″

The Serbs apparently left in a hurry, leaving behind pieces of clothing, family photographs and books.

``What’s somebody else’s cannot be mine,″ Tihic mused. ``But I’ll try to take care of the house just as if it were. And if they ever come back and if Prnjavor is liberated, then each will return to his real home.″

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