Siege mentality as Serb gunners resume shelling




The 14th-century Lovrjenac tower, whose mighty walls guard Dubrovnik's ancient harbour, today forms a bizarre blast shelter for 50 or so people against the shells of the Bosnian Serbs in the hills across the border. Camp beds and chairs line a walkway where tourists once watched illuminated tanks of octopus and other sea life.

"It's OK here - the children are safe," said Nefi Bakaric, who has spent almost two weeks in the shelter with her sister's family. "There's shelling near my house - I don't know when we'll be able to go home."

Along the passage an elderly couple gazed blankly at a tank filled with wrinkled grey anemones; a couple of women watched a portable black-and- white television instead.

Mrs Bakaric was eager for Croatia's troops, thousands of whom have been dispatched to the Dubrovnik area in the past few days, to launch an attack on the Serb gunners in Trebinje, 10 miles away, who have teased the city and scared off its tourists. "They should liberate Trebinje," she said. "Life is no good here now. For five years we have had no people, no work."

Dubrovnik's polished stone streets are almost deserted, the turquoise waters empty of bathers or boats, an occasional rumble of distant artillery which could be thunder. "There are a couple of tourists - I met one this morning," Barbara, a travel agent, said firmly. "He wanted to go to Italy tonight."

Her litany of complaint encompassed the loss of trade, the war, the foreign media's (unspecified) lies about Croatia, her demand that Zagreb's forces silence the Serb guns. "They should because we're fed up," she said, adding that of the 13 pre-war staff at the agency, only one other remained.

"We have to clear [the Serbs] out if we want to live. I make 200 German marks a month: it's not enough to live on. Luckily I have relatives in Slovenia and they send me money to survive. We have only tourism here, no factories." If the Bosnian Serbs remained in Trebinje, she said, "We will die anyway."

Although the old town was bombarded by the Serbs during the war in 1991, there are few signs of damage: pockmarks in the walls of ancient buildings, mostly. The war tourist must consult a large map just inside the western gateway which details each shrapnel mark and holed roof in Dubrovnik.

The city has so far escaped the recent shelling - concentrated around the airport and border villages in the region - which has wounded more than a dozen people and sparked numerous brush fires on the scrubby mountains near the coast.

The Serbs seem to be playing a dangerous game of "dare", too circumspect to attack the city, but tempted to revenge itself for the loss of Krajina and towns in western Bosnia.

The Croatian commander, General Zvonimir Cervenko, visited the front- lines on Tuesday to warn the Serbs against playing with fire. "I am not going to allow the people of Dubrovnik to spend their lives in cellars," he told reporters.

Huge military columns are heading south along the coast road from Split; on Tuesday we saw more than 50 trucks, at least 10 towing guns or heavy mortars. The materiel never reached Dubrovnik, prompting speculation that the column turned east towards the Bosnian border near the town of Neum.

UN officials in the region have no access to the border, but seem in no doubt of Zagreb's plans. "The only intention of the Croat side is to make Dubrovnik safe. I think they have to do it," said one.

Last week ,the UN issued unconfirmed reports that civilians had been evacuated from Trebinje, the first hint of a Croatian offensive to come.

Before the war, Barbara took tourists sightseeing in the town. "We used to look at the mosques - there was one from the 14th century in Trebinje, it was very special," she said.

She did not think there were many inhabitants left - "They pushed out all the Muslims" - and she hopes the same fate will now befall the Serbs, and that Dubrovnik will ring again to the sound of foreign voices and Croatian cash registers.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower