New attack on Croats in Serbia, HNV says; Police identify perpetrator

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A new attack on members of the Croatian community in Serbia's northern town of Subotica was reported to the Croatian National Council (HNV) on Friday.

HNV said the incident happened on August 2, when an unknown man attacked Z.B. (51), squeezing his neck and throwing him to the ground.

„An unknown assailant, with the most heinous insults on a national basis, first attacked the passengers in the car (with Zagreb licence plates), telling them he would ‘slaughter all the Ustashas’ (Croatian Nazi collaborators in WW II), and cursing the ‘Ustasha mother’, the HNV statement said.

It added that when Z.B. asked why he was doing this, he physically attacked him and slightly injured him.

Z.B. called the police, which started an investigation but did not give Z.B. any written note about it.

Later on Friday, local police confirmed the incident was reported, adding they identified a 63-year-old man from Subotica as the perpetrator and interrogated him. They denied other people were attacked and that Z.B. was not given the official note. The police said he signed it, but didn’t take it. They added they passed on to the relevant prosecutors’ office all relevant information about the incident a day after it had happened. The police also said that Z.B. told them the incident was related to a parking issue.

HNV added that it was „another in a series of attacks“ on Croats in Serbia and that it was caused by „continuous negative media reports about Croats in Serbia’s media.“

„Such a case shows the conditions which members of our community live in,“ the HNV statement said.

The Council asked the police and the prosecution for an „urgent and appropriate reaction to protect the victim, but also to show that Serbia was a safe country for its citizens of other nationalities.“

„We are additionally worried because the attack took place in a multiethnic place such as Subotica, which is also the cultural centre of the Croatian people and Croatian institutions in Serbia,“ the HNV said.

The incident happened two days ahead of the 26th anniversary of the beginning of the Croatian army and police ‘Storm’ operation which ended in over 200,000 Serbs fleeing in front of the advancing armed forces.

Serbs mourn what they call a huge ethnic cleansing, while Croats celebrate it as the greatest victory of their 1991-1995 Homeland War to regain control of almost 25 percent of its territory held by the rebel Serbs who, helped by Belgrade, opposed Croatia’s independence from the former Yugoslav federation.