Victims of 'ethnic cleansing' pour across to Croatia

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ZAGREB (Agencies) - Some 9,000 refugees, mainly Muslims and Croats, have crossed into the Croatian town of Karlovac, south-west of Zagreb, from north-western Bosnia, a Croatian government spokesman said yesterday. The scale of the migration was far greater than forecast by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, which said the situation was becoming more and more difficult, with 'ethnic cleansing' being practised by Serb extremists.

Many of the refugees told of being forced from their homes. Enver Imsirovic, 52, said his house in Blagaj village was taken over by a Serbian family a month ago. 'When they took us out of our homes, they took all the money and gold people had,' he said.

Convoys of UN lorries, coaches and cars rolled into Karlovac from Bosanska-Krupa, Bosanski-Novi and Prijedor throughout the night and were continuing to arrive yesterday morning. A Croatian government spokesman said that Germany had agreed to accept 5,000 refugees and was due to send six trains to collect them. The first three were expected in Zagreb today and the rest tomorrow. Chancellor Helmut Kohl of Germany has appealed to other European Community leaders to take more refugees.

A UN convoy was trapped in a minefield yesterday on its way to take relief supplies to the besieged Muslim town of Gorazde, 45 miles east of Sarajevo, while Bosnia's ethnic factions fought artillery duels and battles in the streets of the capital.

The Royal Air Force announced in London yesterday that it would fly 379 Egyptian troops from Cairo to Croatia to replace the Canadian detachment, at Sarajevo airport since the beginning of July. The first group will fly to Rijeka on Monday, followed by a second contingent to Zagreb on 1 August. An RAF Boeing Sentry early warning aircraft was to leave yesterday for the Adriatic to join Nato forces patrolling the Yugoslav coast. It would be based at Trapani, Sicily, along with another Awacs aircraft which left Britain on Thursday, the RAF said.

In Bonn, a German newspaper reported that a UN official had warned yesterday that 500,000 people made homeless by the fighting in former Yugoslav republics could die in the coming winter. Jose Maria Mendiluce, a special envoy for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung: 'We urgently need considerably more financial and logistic help.'

A spokesman for Lord Carrington, who chairs EC-sponsored Bosnian peace talks in London, said yesterday talks would resume on Monday.

(Photograph omitted)