October 2, 1995 Vreme News Digest Agency No 209

On the Spot: Doboj

Ghost Town

by Uros Komlenovic

The curfew in Doboj starts at eight in the evening and ends at five in the morning. People without special passes can only curl up in their homes and listen to the muffled sounds of battle coming from the surrounding hills and towards Ozren mountain. Single shots and automatic fire are heard, heavy caliber weapons covering everything and the detonations approach and draw away under some undefinable rules of war. Everything is happening close enough to cause a mild anxiety but still far enough to be harmless. That's why they easily got used to the little night music and can sleep without problems

Since the war started Doboj has been the target of constant, most often indiscriminate shelling by the Bosnian army (BiH) and Croat Defence Force (HVO) who both have the town in their sights. Until recently the town tried and somehow managed to live normally despite everything. Susan Sontag or Bernard Henri Levi did not come here to voice solidarity with the residents of the bombed out town like they did in Sarajevo. Doboj was never declared a safe area but it somehow managed to survive. Now everything has died down. Schools are out. Cafes are closed: after the curfew was imposed in the Bosnian Serb Republic (RS) new duties were imposed on owners along with close deadlines to pay other taxes. Half empty shops mainly close by noon. The streets are walked only by people who absolutely have to go somewhere with the only path being home-job (more precisely home-work obligations). Without police, army and special forces patrols, Doboj in the afternoon would be a ghost town.

There are virtually no men on the streets without uniforms and guns. Everything that can move is on the front. "The exception are priority services: bus and rail transport (minimal), water supply, bakery, hospital, post office and electricity company employees," war presidency president Drago Ljubicic said. "Every other company has only female workers and some invalids. So we don't have the needed workforce, our supplies are low and our needs have grown: we got some 15,000 refugees from Ozren and Vozuca. We had plans to house those people somehow in Doboj, Modrica and Samac but they're mainly still in Doboj."

Refugees came to Doboj earlier (but not in these numbers and with this speed), shells landed in the center of town killing and maiming people but the mood in town was never this dark. "For three years we've been living on the front lines, we haven't got used to it but we somehow managed to deal with our own fears," a girl said. "The NATO bombings and the fall of Vozuca and half of Ozren created fear among the people. We can't see Belgrade TV or our own and we won't watch Sarajevo TV. So no one turns on their TV sets."

Ljubicic said NATO aircraft bombed military installations in the center of town, destroying the complete communications system, leaving the town and the state blind and deaf and paving the way for the Moslem offensive on Vozuca and Ozren. On Kraljica, a peak of Mt. Ozren, there's a huge crater where the telecommunications relay was. The telephone exchange center on Ciganiste near Doboj (a purely civilian facility, Ljubicic said) was also destroyed as well as the Serb Radio Doboj transmitter in the town itself.

"On Tuesday, September 6, during a broadcast of Solidarity in Action which speaks about Red Cross activities, six aircraft bombs hit the transmitter," radio editor in chief Ozren Jorganovic said. "The antenna tower was completely destroyed along with the spare transmitter, power supply unit, a building and other equipment. We have had a broadcast permit for 1395 kilohertz for 14 years. That is the same frequency as the Voice of America but I can't believe that was the reason. I can find no other reason, none of the lines there were military."

The staff at Serb Radio Doboj decided to demand compensation from the US Embassy in Belgrade. The "small book" they wrote to the embassy says: "In the bombing of civilian targets in the Bosnian Serb republic by NATO, our medium wave 1kw transmitter was targeted. We stress that this was a purely civilian facility with no military installations. We can believe that this was a pilot error. The damage inflicted stands at around 200,000 USD and, unfortunately, we cannot raise that money. With respect for your legal system and your wish to correct this mistake, we hope you will compensate us for the damage. Damages for the fear our staff faced will be requested later."