Refugees tell of beatings, killings by Serbs


KARLOVAC, Croatia -- They differ in the details, but the outlines of their stories coincide with chilling clarity. These are Croatian and Muslim refugees who have fled the fighting in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and they speak of having been herded by the tens of thousands into camps where they witnessed beatings and shootings of prisoners by masked Serbian guards.

The refugees taking shelter beneath trees in the sweltering heat of this makeshift camp 40 miles south of Zagreb did not appear to be recounting rehearsed stories or rumors.

Three of the witnesses talked of a prison in a primary school in Trnopolje, a village near the Bosnian town of Kozarac.

"They were beating people, killing them. I saw it," said Rebija Alic, a 32-year-old woman who said she was held there with her 4-year-old son for 17 days. She said men and women slept on the tile floors of the classrooms. The guards wore masks, she said, and inmates were allowed only a few drops of dirty water a day from the pump out front.

Hava Grabic, 39, said she went to a ceramics factory in the nearby Bosnian city of Prijedor in search of her missing husband. She said she walked the chain-link fence surrounding the building, and said she saw hundreds, perhaps thousands, of men on the other side.

"They were like those hungry people in Africa who crave bread," she said. "They had long hair, beards. They wore rags. They looked hungry, thirsty." She said she did not see her husband.

The people interviewed came from the area near Kozarac, a heavily Muslim town that was the target of a Serbian "ethnic cleansing" operation in late May and early June. They said they saw civilians being executed on the spot by armed men with automatic rifles and said that some buildings in the town had been leveled.

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