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Ceausescu Loyalists Fight On : Romania: Sniper fire, roadblocks and burning buildings mark Bucharest. 'There is no government,' a diplomat says.

December 25, 1989|DAVID LAUTER and DAN FISHER | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

In the main university library, which faces the square, a huge fire raged out of control for a second day. Across the square, young men in civilian clothes carrying knives and semi-automatic rifles guarded the former headquarters of the Central Committee of the Romanian Communist Party, now being used by the army and the civilian committees of the Front of National Salvation.

Trucks, buses, cement mixers, trolleys and overturned tables and chairs were used to block traffic in the streets as residents searched for Securitate agents. Virtually every neighborhood in the city's central area had roadblocks protected by nervous-looking young men, some armed with automatic rifles, others with clubs, bats and pieces of wood.

A drive at mid-afternoon to the city center from the southern edge of the city, a distance of only a few miles, required passage though nine separate roadblocks, some no more than two blocks apart. At each stop, the blockaders searched all cars, looking in trunks and under hoods, eyeing foreigners suspiciously and demanding to see passports.

Pedestrians, even small children and elderly women, were routinely being patted down in the search for weapons.

The provisional government set up by the army and the Front of National Salvation has appealed to the public to avoid further revenge attacks which, it said, had reached "alarming proportions." Where possible, army troops protected prisoners against angry mobs of Romanians. But by and large the plea seems to have been ignored in the streets.

A Western diplomat reported seeing a Securitate agent beaten to death by a crowd that seized him at a roadblock. Another agent captured after being refused refuge at a Western embassy was beaten and taken away in a car by armed men.

The greatest fury appears to be directed at agents of the elite anti-terrorist squads, known by their Romanian initials, USLA, who are blamed for the worst of the shooting here.

The anger in the streets has been further inflamed by constantly repeated but never verified rumors that Ceausescu loyalists are being aided by foreign mercenaries, variously described as Asian or Arab--Libyan, Palestinian or Syrian. These reports have made many Romanians suspicious of nearly all foreigners.

Ceausescu reportedly had provided training grounds in the countryside for terrorist groups, and he had maintained close security links with North Korea and some hard-line Arab states.

Reuters news agency quoted Lt. Col. Georges Ionesco as saying that six men killed in Saturday night fighting were believed to be Syrians, and a Reuters photographer visiting a Bucharest hospital quoted medical personnel as saying that some of the Securitate men they had treated were Arabs.

A British Broadcasting Corp. radio correspondent with long experience in the region reported that he saw a wounded Securitate man in the hospital "who looked suspiciously Asian."

The BBC man added, however, that while "I'm sure there are foreigners who have been fighting on behalf of Ceausescu . . . I suspect the number is greatly exaggerated by the popular imagination here."

Securitate forces in Iasi, near the Soviet border, were reported to have surrendered en masse Sunday, triggering celebrations throughout the town. Foreign and Romanian television broadcasts monitored in the West also showed what were reputed to be uniformed, loyalist forces who switched sides during the day and are now supporting the army. And the Yugoslav news agency Tanjug said more than 40 security troops, including a number of women, had surrendered in Timisoara.

It was not immediately clear whether the new government's call for a cease-fire at mid-afternoon Sunday had played a role in the surrenders. Its warning appeared to apply both to pro-Ceausescu forces and armed vigilante bands seeking revenge against them.

Anyone other than army troops who have weapons should turn them over by 5 p.m. today, according to the provisional government announcement.

"Not one more drop of blood should be shed," it said, adding that anyone violating the cease-fire would be punished "promptly and mercilessly."

Outside of Bucharest, the military situation was spotty.

A BBC television crew encountered 46 checkpoints in the 250-mile drive from the Hungarian border to the capital, all of them apparently manned by anti-Ceausescu militias and the army. But a local army commander warned the crew against traveling certain routes.

In Timisoara, four journalists and a diplomat were wounded by snipers or men manning roadblocks Saturday night and early Sunday.

State radio also reported fighting in Sibiu and Brasov, two more towns that were considered strongholds of Ceausescu's secret police.

In the border town of Giurgiu, residents told reporters that 15 people had been killed Saturday afternoon when Securitate members seized a church and a neighboring apartment building

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