BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- Militant Serbs embroiled in a bitter ethnic rivalry broke into police stations in four towns of the republic of Croatia on Saturday and stole weapons, radio reports said.
In another town in Croatia, police fired tear gas at 2,000 Serbs protesting government policies they say work against them.
Croatia's Assistant Interior Minister Perica Juric said police arrested a number of people on suspicion of stealing weapons from a police station, and also charged police officers who allegedly failed to fulfill their duties.
A group of some 500 Serbs broke into a police station and took away weapons Saturday night in the Serbian-dominated town of Donji Lapac, south of the Croatian capital of Zagreb, 250 miles west of Belgrade, Zagreb Radio said.
The police did not resist the assault, the radio said.
In another town with a Serbian majority, Dvor Na Uni, southeast of Zagreb, riot police fired tear gas grenades Saturday night to disperse about 2,000 Serbs protesting an allegedly anti-Serbian policy of the new Croatian non-communist authorities. Serbs are a minority in Croatia.
Police patrolled the streets of at least four of Croatia's towns Saturday to keep under control ethnic riots that left one policeman wounded, several people slightly injured, and tens of Serbian protesters arrested, Zagreb Radio said.
Earlier in the day, the Ministry of Interior in Zagreb said it dispatched police reinforcements to reinstate order in the Serbian- dominated towns of Dvor Na Uni, Glina and Obrovac, where groups of militants Serbs also broke into police stations and stole weapons.
The police said theyidentified 59 people who broke into the police station in Obrovac. The radio said one demonstrator, Nikica Olujic, carried dynamite and a lighted cigarette and threatened to blow up the station unless the group was allowed to take the weapons.
Police units controlled the towns and tried to collect the stolen rifles and guns and return them to the police stations, a Croatian ministry statement carried by Zagreb Radio said.
There are about 600,000 Serbs in the Croatian republic. They fear a new non-communist government of Croatian nationalists may violate their human rights.
Likewise, many of 4.6 million Croatians in Yugoslavia fear domination by the 8.5 million-strong Serbian majority in the federation of six republics. Serbs constitute a majority in the nation's police and armed forces.
Politicians representing Serbs and Croats, the two largest groups in the multiethnic Yugoslav federation of 23 million, exploit long-standing rivalry between the two peoples.
Six weeks ago, militant Serbs in the Croatian town of Knin, 180 miles south of Zagreb, seized weapons from police stations and blocked roads to resist the Croatian government from interfering in a referendum on autonomy for Serbs in Croatia.