Ultranationalists in Bosnia, Serbia recruit unofficial armies from among unemployed
THIS is a town where shots and screams ring in the dark and anarchy reigns.
It is not in Bosnia-Herzegovina, nor Croatia, republics that declared independence from the former Yugoslav republic. Pljevlja is in Serbia's sister republic of Montenegro, which has joined with Serbia to form the new Yugoslavia. But that provides little protection to local Muslims, since, according to many local Serb fighters, "there are no borders between Serbs."
"What is happening down there is pure gangsterism," says one Western diplomat who recently visited Pljevlja. "The Muslims are ... being bullied away.... Many Serbs down there seem not to want to see this happening; they may even be the majority. But they are a silent majority, because they, too, have been terrorized by these troublemakers."
Life was relatively peaceful here until the war began in Bosnia-Herzegovina in April. The first signs of trouble came in May and June, when thousands of Muslim refugees fled their homes in Bosnia. They were terrorized into leaving by Bosnian Serb forces under a local warlord, Dusan Kornjaca - known as "The Turtle" because his surname means "turtle" in Serbo-Croatian.
Pljevlja's 18 percent Muslim population breathed a sigh of relief that they did not live in Bosnia. They wrongly thought it couldn't happen to them.
"We took in a lot of the refugees as they passed through," says the local Muslim leader, Sefket Brkovic, who heads the SDA Muslim party here. But Pljevlja's Muslims found they were powerless to stop local Serb militias from knocking on doors of families who had taken in Muslim refugees. "They would separate the men from the women and children. Then they took the men away - we assumed to camps where they could exchange them for Serb prisoners of war," Mr. Brkovic says.