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The London Times 
July  9, 1991 

           Serbs stay on alert for violence by Croatians 

From Tim Judah in Tenja,  Croatia  

   AFTER the compromise on  Yugoslavia  achieved by the European Community at 
the weekend's Brioni talks, a degree of cautious optimism prevailed in Belgrade 
and West European capitals yesterday. But in Osijek and its Serb-populated 
suburb of Tenja, they were preparing for war. 
   Council workers cleaned anti-aircraft guns mounted on lorries outside 
sandbagged municipal buildings, while people walked their dogs, sunbathed and 
fished in the river. In Tenja they were still bracing themselves for a 
Croatian attack. In Osijek, Commander Igor Vrandecic of the Croatian National 
Guard said: ''In Brioni they have been thinking and talking. But I think it's 
time to fight.'' 
   Commander Vrandecic had already spent Sunday fighting. As the three European 
ministers talked peace on the Adriatic island, an eight-hour battle raged at 
Tenja between Croatian forces and armed locals. The Croats claim that they 
entered Tenja on Sunday morning to flush out Cetniks, Serb extremists who are 
intent on building a greater Serbia out of the ruins of  Yugoslavia,  and that 
they had been attacked. The Serbs of Tenja said it was they who were attacked by
Croats intent on pushing out the people living in Serb enclaves in eastern 
   The battle cost at least eight lives and ended only after the army 
intervened. The Croats claim that the army came in on the side of the Serbs. The
Serbs say that there are no Cetniks in Tenja a typically dismal Slavonian story.
   To enter Tenja you must pass three Croatian road blocks. They are staffed by 
police and heavily armed men in plainclothes. In the middle of the town two 
federal army tanks point towards the Croatian positions. To pass the tanks you 
negotiate with Serbian militiamen on a barricade consisting of a combine 
harvester. Bullet-ridden lorries and cars strewn over the road bear witness to 
the ferocity of the battle. 
   Tenja is a prosperous suburban village of neat houses and vegetable gardens. 
Yesterday afternoon the flies buzzed over the blood on a doorstep in Dravska 
Street. The last body had just been removed and chickens clucked in the 
neighbouring garden. Hundreds of spent cartridges lay scattered around the house
which, with saucepans still on the oven and bullet-holes through the clock, gave
an impression of a macabre Marie Celeste. Most gruesome of all was the large 
ice-cream fridge outside the shot-up grocery shop next door. It was riddled with
bullet holes and spattered with blood and still working. 
   An old woman stopped outside Tenja town hall: ''I haven't been able to get to
my house. The Croats are stealing everything; they want to kill us with a wave 
of terror.'' 
   Zarko Cubrilo, aged 48, said that he had lost his job after 20 years as a 
building supervisor. He said that all the Croats in his company had kept their 
jobs. ''Many of us have been sacked because they want an ethnically clean 
Croatia. '' Mr Cubrilo said that  Croatia's  ruling party wanted ''either to 
conquer us and make us loyal citizens who will only be allowed to sweep the 
streets, or kick us out''.

   Few people here put much faith in peace talks. ''This will continue until we 
separate: Croats on one side, Serbs on the other,'' Mr Cubrilo said.