Serbian capital begins to feel the breath of war


BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- The war is beginning to come home to Serbia's stronghold capital.

Terrorist attacks have begun here in Belgrade, which is also the capital of the united Yugoslavia. They are the only option for Croatian militants since the combined forces of Serbian nationalists and the army with its Serb-dominated officer corps are enough to keep Croatia's weaker forces tied up in breakaway Croatia.

At least six bombs exploded last week in Belgrade's leading restaurants, shattering the illusory tranquillity of the previous weeks and wounding several people.

The main explosions went off in the men's restrooms at restaurants known to be frequented by Serbian nationalists: at the "Ruski Czar" (Russian Czar), favorite central Belgrade hangout of supporters of "Red Duke" Vojisalv Seselj, leader of the Serb Ultra nationalists, and at "Orach," main watering hole for nationalist journalists.

Anonymous callers claiming to be Croatian nationalists telephoned the Yugoslav news agency Tanjug to warn that more terrorist acts should be expected in retaliation for Serbian attacks on Croatia.

The news of the onset of urban terrorism spread like wildfire despite an obvious effort by Serbia's authorities to prevent panic. Restaurant business has plummeted. People move nervously in hotel foyers.

The prospect of urban terrorism has added a new strain to the psychologically ravaged population of Belgrade, already inundated by a steady stream of ghoulish anti-Croatian propaganda.

One Croatian woman who lives in Belgrade says she refuses to listen to television or radio or to buy newspapers. By contrast, most Serbs are glued to the news media. The blitz leaves little to the imagination. Belgrade's independent TV station "Studio B" cautioned the other night that young children and "people with ++ weak nerves" should not watch its documentary program, which featured the gory sights of beheaded torsos and mutilated bodies. The authenticity of the reports is never independently verified.

The effect has been that nationalist hatreds and passions are prevailing over reason. Cafe and office talk mirrors the propaganda. "Did you hear about the Serb from Knin who was captured by the Croats. They cut out his tongue and then his eyes and then slit his throat."

It is a hatred that is mirrored in Croatia: On the sea wall in the Croatian seaside resorts, graffiti sum up the mood on the other side: "We Ustashi do not drink wine, we drink the blood of the Serbs from Knin."

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