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Serbians Claim Fighting Spills Into Serbia for First Time With PM-Yugoslavia

November 5, 1991

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Croatian forces attacked a Serbian town today for the first time in Yugoslavia’s civil war, Serbia’s defense minister said.

Four people died in the assault and 12 were wounded, said the Yugoslav news agency Tanjug, which is based in Belgrade, Serbia’s capital. Croatian officials denied Croats had anything to do with the attack.

The Serbian defense minister, Gen. Miodrag Simovic, said Croats fired 15 artillery rockets into Sid, a Serbian town across the Danube River border with the secessionist republic. He told Serbia’s Parliament there were casualties, but he gave no details.

There was no independent confirmation of the attack. Croats previously have not attacked targets in Serbia, which has supported attacks in Croatia by the Serb-dominated federal army and ethnic Serb rebels opposed to Croatian independence.

The reported attack could provoke a strong response from Serbia, and almost certainly would strengthen its demands that all Yugoslav regions populated by Serbs be part of Serbia.

Serbs in the central state of Bosnia-Hercegovina are to vote this weekend on whether their areas should declare themselves autonomous and then unite with Serbia, which they do not border. Ethnic Serbs in Croatia also are demanding that their areas be part of Serbia.

Fighting was reported on several fronts in Croatia today, a day after fierce attacks by federal forces on Croat defenders in the Adriatic resort of Dubrovnik, the central city of Karlovac and the eastern stronghold of Vukovar.

Simovic announced the attack on Sid as leaders of Yugoslavia’s six republics failed again to reach a political settlement in peace talks sponsored by the European Community in the Netherlands. The leaders agreed on another cease-fire, but previous truces have failed to stop fighting that has killed well over 1,000 people since Croatia and Slovenia declared independence June 25. Croatia says 5,000 people have died.

Tanjug said 10 wounded people had been taken from Sid to Sremska Mitrovica, about 30 miles to the southeast. It said the attack began shortly before 11 a.m. and the firing continued for at least an hour.

Belgrade radio said several houses were hit in the town, which has been a staging area for attacks by the federal army on Croat positions in eastern Croatia. Croatian defense officials reached in Vinkovci, the Croatian town closest to Sid, said they had no knowledge of the attack.

In Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, a spokesman for the republic’s defense ministry vehemently denied Croats were involved.

The army has been fighting on the Croatian side of the border near Sid for more than two months in an attempt to overwhelm the Croat stronghold of Vukovar.

Fighting so far in the conflict has been concentrated in Croatia, which has lost control of a third of its territory to Serb guerrillas and the army.

Elsewhere, Croatian defense officials reported renewed attacks on Vukovar and Osijek, the capital of the Slavonia region of eastern Croatia. Fighting also was reported at Sisak, where a key oil refinery was hit for the seventh time Monday night, local defense officials said.

Dubrovnik, which has been under siege for more than a month, was reported quiet today, with heavy rain hindering military operations.

Update hourly