Milosevic supporters, foes clash in Belgrade
U.S. condemns government provocation
December 24, 1996
Web posted at: 3:00 p.m. EST (2000 GMT)
In this story:
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- Supporters of Serbian President
Sloboban Milosevic -- some of them bused into Belgrade from
the countryside -- fired shots at opponents on Tuesday during
clashes on the streets of Belgrade.
( 988K/22 sec. QuickTime movie)
Rival demonstrators also beat each other with sticks
and metal pipes in the first bloodshed since the
opposition began peaceful protests 35 days ago against
vote-rigging by the ruling Socialists.
At least one person was hit by gunfire. Witnesses said at
least three other opposition demonstrators were
A man emerged from a crowd of pro-government supporters,
pulled a gun and fired into a crowd of opposition
demonstrators, hitting one man in the head, CNN's Peter
Arnett reported live from Belgrade. (199K/18 sec. AIFF or WAV sound, report from CNN's Peter Arnett)
The United States said Milosevic and his government
would be held responsible for any "violent actions" by
"The Serbian authorities have flagrantly and
provocatively chosen to heighten tensions by bringing
thousands of people into Belgrade to confront the
peaceful demonstrations by the opposition," Deputy
Secretary of State Strobe Talbott said in a statement.
According to journalists in Belgrade, Milosevic's
opponents produced a turnout of almost 200,000 people,
more than twice the number who rallied in support of
The wounded man was "bleeding profusely" on the street as the
gunman disappeared back into the crowd of government
supporters, Arnett reported.
Later, however, doctors said later the man's head
wound was not life-threatening. Witnesses said police
detained the gunman.
At first, no police were in sight, apparently allowing
protesters from both sides to "fight it out," Arnett said. (306K/30 sec. AIFF or WAV sound, report from CNN's Peter Arnett)
But riot police eventually appeared, firing teargas and
making baton charges. The police pushed back both
government supporters and opposition demonstrators. (224K/18 sec. AIFF or WAV sound, report from CNN's Steve Harrigan)
Milosevic's supporters convened in Belgrade's Republic
Square, where the opposition has demonstrated for more than a
month demanding that their victories in local elections be
recognized. Earlier in the month, the demonstrations reached
a peak of more than 200,000 people.
Opposition leaders said they were considering calling off
their supporters after learning that many of the government
supporters were carrying arms.
Hundreds of buses carrying Milosevic's supporters -- mostly
blue-collar workers and elderly people -- arrived in
Belgrade earlier Tuesday. Some workers said they had been
forced to board the buses under threat of dismissal.
"I had no choice," a worker from the Kosovo province town of
Prizren said, identifying himself only as Ljuba. "We were
told either we board the buses, or we lose our jobs."
The pro-Milosevic rally was planned for the same time and
place as the daily opposition rallies.
Clashes between pro- and anti-Milosevic protesters would give
Serbia's president an excuse to ban all demonstrations and
use force against his opponents, whose protests so far have
In his first public appearance since the crisis began,
Milosevic warned: "No one will be allowed to
Correspondents Peter Arnett and Steve Harrigan in Belgrade
and Reuters contributed to this report.
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