NEW YORK -- Authorities say Croatian terrorist activities have suffered a 'crushing blow' following the arrests of nine men throughout the United States and in Canada.
The nine, taken into custody Thursday, are leaders of OTPOR, a group seeking the independence of Croatia from Yugoslavia.
The FBI says Croatian terrorists are the most violent in America and are responsible for 50 deaths worldwide since 1972.
The arrests followed the convictions earlier this year of five men, all leaders of the New York OTPOR branch, for plotting bombings and a political assassination.
Federal agents said the nine made up thexrarchy of OTPOR, which means resistance, and directed Croatian terrorism in the United States.
In announcing the arrests, Lee Laster, director of the FBI's New York office, said they dealt 'a crushing blow' to Croatian terrorism here.
'The impact is monumental,' said Kenneth Walton, the office's deputy director. 'It will have the same effect as arrest of the FALN hierarchy in Chicago.'
Ten members of the FALN, a Puerto Rican terrorist group, were arrested in Chicago in April 1980.
The nine arrested were indicted for the 1978 murders of Anthony Cijoka in Greenburgh, N.Y. and Krizan Brkic in Glendale, Calif.
They also were accused of 50 acts of extortion and four acts each of arson, interstate transportation of explosives or bombs, conspiracy to commit murder and conspiracy to commit arson.
Laster said the crimes occurred between January 1977 and December 1980.
The indictment said the nine also used, built and stockpiled 'explosives, bombs, machine guns, rifles, hand guns, silencers and other weapons' and that they went to Scotland and West Germany 'for purposes of providing instruction in bomb construction.'
Laster said the nine targeted Croatian nationals opposed to using violence to attain independence.
Those arrested include Mile Markic of Skokie, Ill., the leader of OTPOR in the United States, and Ante Ljubas, a Chicago resident and the No. 2 man in the organization. Only one is from the New York area -- Anjelko Jakic of Mamaroneck.
Each faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in jail and a $25,000 fine.
The six other men arrested were Ivan Misetic of Skokie, Ill.; Vinko Logarusic of Cleveland; Ranko Primorac of Long Beach, Calif.; Miro Biosic of San Clemente, Calif.; Mile Boban of San Francisco, and Drago Sudar of Etobicoke, a suburb of Toronto, Canada.