Croatia bomb kills two journalists


A car bomb killed two journalists in central Zagreb today, Croatian state television has reported.

Zagreb police declined to give more details on the incident, the latest in a wave of violence that has gripped the country's capital this year.

Prime Minister Ivo Sanader sacked the interior and justice ministers earlier this month as part of a bid to tackle organised crime, following a string of unsolved beatings and murders in Zagreb.

One of those killed in today's attack was the head of a leading Croatian weekly, the television said, citing unofficial sources.

Zagreb police declined to give more details, but it sealed off the centre of town while firemen rushed to the scene to extingush the car, which had caught fire.

The car bomb exploded in front of the Nacional weekly building in central Zagreb. The TV report, showing footage of the wrecked car, said one of the two people killed was Nacional editor Ivo Pukanic.

Fighting organised crime and corruption is one of the key requirements Zagreb has to meet if it wants to complete EU accession talks next year, but analysts said the latest incident did not bode well for its efforts.

"This is a shock, a disaster .... The police and all of us have to do everything to stop this violence. This has to stop," government spokesman Zlatko Mehun told Reuters.

The attack did not bode well for the government's attempt to stamp out the violence, said Davor Butkovic, an editor of wide-selling Jutarnji List daily.

"Unfortunately, this means that the state has lost this round of crackdown on crime. This is big blow to Croatia's political system, it shows the system's inefficiency in fighting crime."

Pukanic, the owner of the Nacional, which often exposed corruption and human rights abuses, earlier this year reported an assassination attempt against him.

He told the police an assailant had fired a gun at him from close range while he was walking in the street, missing him by inches. A police investigation has proved inconclusive.

Earlier this month, the daughter of a well-known lawyer was shot twice in the head in the stairway of the building where she lived, not far from the Zagreb police headquarters.

Ivana Hodak's father Zvonimir is defending an ex-general extradited from Austria last month, who is suspected of stealing $5 million in diamonds during Croatia's independence war. She dated a lawyer whose clients had been tried for organised crime.

Also this year, a prominent crime reporter was beaten up on the street, a member of the Zagreb city administration was beaten up with baseball bats and the chief executive of a major construction firm was assaulted with iron bars in September.

Local media have urged tough crackdown on organised crime, calling for a large-scale police action similar to a crackdown that neighbouring Serbia launched against criminal gangs after its Prime Minister, Zoran Djindjic, was assassinated in 2003.