[CrashList] Times: Serb batallion ready to strike in Montenegro
jones118 at lineone.net
Sat Sep 23 02:45:10 MDT 2000
BY JANINE DI GIOVANNI IN BERANE
CORPORAL DINO has a killer's eyes. Cold, impassive, the 22-year-old
soldier with the Yugoslav Army's 7th Battalion declares that he is
prepared to do whatever is necessary to keep Montenegro from gaining
"Montenegro is the land of Serbian forefathers," he said, echoing his
hero Slobodan Milosevic's words. The President considers the tiny
republic to be Yugoslavia's last stand. Corporal Dino said: "It
belongs to Yugoslavia. If they try to leave, it will be violent, and
the time is coming, the time is now."
The fear of residents in Podgorica, Montenegro's capital, that the 7th
Battalion and paramilitary groups will trigger violence after Sunday's
presidential elections appears to be borne out by the attitude and
action of Corporal Dino. Last night he and his friends started taking
up posts, some of them inside the capital.
He described the situation as "hot, we're in something like red
alert". Even if President Milosevic is re-elected - which seems likely
given his determination to cling to power - Corporal Dino admits that
"something will still happen". He said: "We are not happy with
Djukanovic [the Montenegrin President] being in power, there is a
60-40 chance that we will act."
Officials in Podgorica believe the ultimate goal of the battalion is
to split the town, surround the presidential palace, cut off water,
electricity, television and telephone, and fend off attacks from Nato
as well as President Djukanovic's loyal military police.
Corporal Dino's outfit, the 7th Battalion of the Yugoslav Military
Police Army, to give its full title, is a shadowy group formed after
the Nato bombing last year. Operating from a headquarters in Berane,
many members are former criminals and the most brutal veterans of the
war in Kosovo.
Although Corporal Dino says that they are officially led by General
Milorad Obradovic, head of the Yugoslav Second Army, they are in
reality a paramilitary force, according to Radomir Sekulovic, a senior
adviser to the Montenegro Government. He said: "They are not recruited
in the normal way - conscripted by the law in Yugoslavia. They are
also paid more for their work than members of similar army structures.
They can do whatever they want."
Many of the men are former members of paramilitary groups, such as the
Tigers led by the late Arkan in the Bosnian war, the Wolves and
Frenki's - the group led by Frenki Simatovic - which inflicted some of
the horrific atrocities in Kosovo.
Since early summer, as President Djukanovic got closer to the West,
their numbers have increased, with estimates of between 1,200 and
2,000 men. Corporal Dino said their numbers were closer to 2,000.
All of them are heavily armed and highly trained. They train for 12
hours a day from 6 am to 6 pm. "My unit has been getting special
training from some of Frenki's guys," said Corporal Dino, describing
them as "really good instructors".
The soldier is not supposed to talk to outsiders, and very few have
come in contact with anyone from the 7th Battalion. But he came
forward because he wanted to explain himself. Although he was not
wearing his army fatigues - so as to make himself inconspicuous during
the secret meeting - his posture and his expression were still
He was not ashamed to admit what he and his friends - who have joined
him here in Montenegro - did during the Kosovo war. "I did kill
people," he said, focusing his icy stare. "Yes I did. It's like having
sex, the first time, you don't know what to do, the second time, it's
better. Afterwards you know what to do."
The Kosovo war was a good time for him. As an infantry soldier in
Prizren, he burnt houses and shot Kosovo Liberation Army soldiers and
those he claimed were "spies". At close range? "Yes, at close range,"
He bristled at the mention of the civilians killed. "Just because
someone is wearing street clothes doesn't mean they are civilians," he
stated defensively. "There were spies everywhere."
When the Serb forces withdrew he felt angry because he believed that
the Serbs had won the war and the politicians were making them leave
Kosovo. He was also furious because he could no longer vent his
On returning home to Belgrade he began working as a bodyguard to an
underworld personality, whom he would not name. A friend from his
military days then told the soldier about joining the 7th Battalion.
He said that when he was a child, he yearned to be a pilot like Tom
Cruise in Top Gun, but he failed the test because of his poor teeth so
he was lured to Kosovo and now to Montenegro. He said he was being
paid DM400 (£122) a month.
The repeat of a Sarajevo-like siege in which civilians become targets
is a terrifying vision for many Montenegrins, who want to distance
themselves as much as possible from Belgrade. But here in the north of
Montenegro the people are hard and unrelenting and intent on keeping
Montenegro a part of the Yugoslav Federation.
This is the town where President Milosevic, their hero, rallied last
week. This is a poor region, a world away from the semi-sophistication
of Podgorica, which has a languid Mediterranean air and prides itself
on its imported - often smuggled - Italian clothes and cars.
Corporal Dino's parting words carried an edge of menace. "I'm telling
you, to be polite," he said. "Get out of Podgorica. It may not happen
right away, but it will. And you don't want to be here when it
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