1991 Dalmatian anti-Serb riots
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The Dalmatian anti-Serb riots were an act of violence that took place in the Croatian cities of Zadar, Šibenik and Split in early May 1991. Croatian civilians vandalized and destroyed properties belonging to ethnic Serbs in Zadar and Šibenik, and protested at the naval headquarters in Split. One death and one serious injury were recorded as a result.
Tensions between Croats and Serbs increased steadily through 1990 and 1991 following the electoral victory of Croatia's nationalist Croatian Democratic Union party, led by Franjo Tuđman. Many Serbs were deeply unhappy about the prospect of living as a minority in an independent Croatia. In the jostling for the future conceptions of Yugoslavia and territorial pretensions between the republics, there was an expectation among Serbs of military conflict and that that could lead to persecution of minority Serbs as had occurred during the Second World War. Such fears were promoted and emphasised in public speeches by local Serb leaders like Jovan Rašković, Milan Martić, Milan Babić and by propaganda coming from Milošević's regime.
In the summer of 1990, they took up arms in the heavily Serb-populated Krajina region of Croatia, just inland from Dalmatia, sealing roads and effectively blocking Dalmatia from the rest of Croatia. The insurrection spread to the eastern region of Slavonia in early 1991, when paramilitary groups from Serbia itself took up positions in the region and started to expel non-Serbs from the area. On 2 May 1991, paramilitaries allegedly associated with the Serbian Radical Party killed a number of Croatian policemen in the Borovo Selo massacre and mutilated their bodies. This was, at the time, the bloodiest single incident in the Croatian conflict, and it caused widespread shock and outrage in Croatia. The killings produced an immediate upsurge in ethnic tensions.
The day after the incident in Borovo, one Franko Lisica, the police chief of Polača near Benkovac in northern Dalmatia, was killed by Serb militiamen. This incident created new tensions in his home town of Bibinje near Zadar, where angry local Croats set fire to several properties of local Serbs.
 The civilian unrest
Soon after these events, a group of younger people from Bibinje went to Zadar to participate in a demonstration against the Serb insurrection. The demonstration grew into a riot, and around a hundred properties were damaged, belonging to ethnic Serbs, or to Yugoslav companies such as those of JAT. Because there were many broken windows in the city centre streets, the next day the Zadar newspaper "Narodni List" printed the headline Zadarska noć kristala literally meaning "Zadar night of crystal" (intended to be a pun on kristalna noć, the Croatian translation of Kristallnacht).
Demonstrations were also organized in the city of Šibenik, where they involved another large group of Croats. Those protests also turned violent, with Serb-owned businesses and vehicles being attacked and destroyed.
The number of properties destroyed was reported to have been at least 168. The violence was reported to have lasted for several hours, without the police taking control.[unreliable source?][better source needed]
 The aftermath
The Yugoslav communist government later accused local HDZ officials of having instigated the violence. It claimed that
- [The] action was organized by a number of the HDZ activists and the highest-ranking officials in Zadar, in the presence of Vladimir Šeks, deputy Speaker of the Croatian Parliament and Petar Šale - both of them among the highest-ranking HDZ officials at the time.
The events in Zadar were not widely reported at the time in the Western media, though the Serbian media cited the "pogrom" as an example of anti-Serb sentiment in Croatia. Marko Atlagić referred to it in a similar context during the trial of Slobodan Milošević.
In July, JNA and Serb forces launched the attack on Croatian-populated Dalmatia in the Operation Coast-91. Zadar and Šibenik would become the cities in Dalmatia most heavily hit by Serb attacks, with hundreds of casualties.[clarification needed]
- James Gow, The Serbian Project and its Adversaries, p. 159. C. Hurst & Co, 2003
- Timeline for Croatian War of Independence
- Sixth Report of the FRY Government on War Crimes committed in the territory of the former SFRY, December 1995
- Belgrade home service report (via BBC Monitoring), 2 May 1991
- War Crimes, Report VI
- Soldier killed in Croatian protest Associated Press, 7 May 1991
- Transcript of the testimony of one Marko Atlagić, The Prosecutor v. Slobodan Milošević, ICTY, 15 February 2006