Serbian marauders threaten anyone left in enclaves Only the elderly remain before shift of authority

March 17, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina - They are out in the night in Grbavica, boozy young men with temper and purpose. They threaten with guns, knives and gasoline, beating old men in their homes and setting apartment buildings on fire.

"These guys see anyone who wants to stay here after the transfer as a traitor to the Serb cause," said Joseph Byrnes, a United Nations doctor who patrols what in four days will be the final Serbian enclave in the Sarajevo area to come under Muslim and Croatian rule.

"And it's the old people, the ones who have nothing to do with this war, who are paying the price.

"They take the brunt because they have no place to go."

A few thousand people are all that's left in this bastion of Serbian nationalism, where rusted tanks sit among the hills, their turrets still pointed at the Bosnian capital below.

Most have already fled, like their counterparts in Vogosca, Ilijas, Hadjici and Ilidza, the other towns transferred to the federation under the Dayton peace accord.

The elderly and the frail sit tight in their apartments, afraid to even venture across the street, while men in camouflage uniforms and long beards mill about outside waiting for cans of gasoline or stealing what they can.

Others have knapsacks bulging with guns and makeshift weapons, including clubs fashioned from umbrella handles. Some of these discharged soldiers loiter in front of a "safe house" established by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees a place only one or two people a night dare to enter eyeing all those who come.

"They came yesterday and pistol-whipped my husband," cried one woman, as her husband and three children were dragged from a smoke-filled building by French soldiers. "They said we have to leave. Now they have burned down our apartment, and we have nowhere to go. We asked the Serb police to come, but they said it wasn't any of their business."

The violence intensified yesterday, when four fires broke out simultaneously by noon. Gunshots could be heard near the old front line as flames ignited ammunition. Monitors and French soldiers stood about helplessly, unable to even get a fire truck from Sarajevo to cross the divide and put the blazes out.

Little but the old residents stand in the way of the devastation. But stalwarts among them have banded together to try to fight the fires with buckets.

Pub Date: 3/17/96

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