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KFOR troops injured in ethnic clashes

Independent - 11 September 1999

SERBS AND Albanians clashed violently in the ethnically divided Kosovan city of Mitrovica yesterday, hurling stones and at least one grenade. Dozens were injured including 15 K-For troops and police.

Witnesses said Serbs burnt the homes of Albanians in the mostly Serb north side of the city and one Albanian was reported killed. The clashes were the most serious for weeks in the town, which has always been regarded as a flash point.

The injured included French soldiers and police, Nato officials said. Five soldiers were hurt as a grenade exploded, and the rest were injured by stones. Major Ole Irgens, a spokesman for the peace-keepers, said none of the injuries was critical. The confrontation began early on Thursday evening and lasted almost until midnight.

The clashes marked the end of another violent week in Kosovo. Two elderly women, one Serb, one Roma, were killed in the Prizren area, the Serb woman dying after a prolonged beating, the Roma woman shot. Two Serbs died after they were caught in a mortar barrage in the village of Donja Budriga.

Like the once-magnificent Ottoman city of Mostar in Bosnia, the town of Mitrovica now embodies the ingrained hatreds between Serbs and Albanians that Nato and K-For must overcome to bring any semblance of normality to Kosovo.

Mitrovica is split into two sectors, with a river marking the border. Mostar is divided between Bosnian Croats and Muslims, by the River Neretva. Mitrovica is split into Serb and Albanian sectors, divided by the Ibar.

Hundreds of Albanians have repeatedly demonstrated at Mitrovica over the past two months, demanding the right to return to their homes in the Serb sector. French peace-keepers patrolling the region have prevented most from doing so, fearing bloodshed.

The ethnic Albanians claim they are being unfairly barred from the north of the city, where many businesses and services are located, while the Serbs say the Albanians want to overrun the city.

Serbs still in Kosovo blame the Kosovo Liberation Army for the attacks on them since the Yugoslav President, Slobodan Milosevic, accepted Western peace terms and pulled his troops out of the province after Nato bombing ended in June.

Nato announced that eight KLA members had been arrested in the western city of Djakovica in an apartment where peace-keepers found a machine- gun, ammunition, 30 cluster bombs, two 85mm anti-tank weapons and several anti-personnel mines.

The KLA's military leader, General Agim Ceku, said his organisation, which is to disarm and disband by 19 September, had won the right not only to transform into a civilian corps but to play a role in all other governmental institutions in Kosovo. He said this would include a defence unit of at least 5,000 members to respond to natural disasters and "defend [Albanians] from aggression."

Six of 11 bodies found in a grave in the eastern Kosovo village of Uglier are those of Serbs, Nato said yesterday. The identity of the rest was unlikely ever to be established. An Albanian man is being questioned about the grave, found in July.

The Huddersfield Committee for Peace & Justice

*** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. ***

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