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Ethnic violence erupts in Kosovo, leaving at least four dead

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Ethnic violence that erupted yesterday in Kosovo's northern city of Mitrovica has left at least four dead and 20 injured, the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) reported today.
Among those killed in the clashes were at least two Albanians and two Turks. A soldier serving with the international peacekeeping force, KFOR, was severely wounded while escorting children in the Kamenica-Gnjilane area. Nine UN vehicles were burned.

According to preliminary information, it appears that grenades were thrown into a Serb café, injuring several people inside. A large crowd gathered, attacking an Albanian man and his wife, beating them severely. A crowd then went on a rampage breaking into Albanian homes in northern Mitrovica.

The spate of violence comes less than two days after the rocket attack on a UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) bus to Mitrovica, which killed two Serbs. Mitrovica remains tense and KFOR has imposed a curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., acting UNMIK spokeswoman Susan Manuel said.

Special Representative of the Secretary-General Bernard Kouchner, on a trip to Japan, has decided to cut short his visit and return to Kosovo. Meanwhile, Principal Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General Jock Covey and senior officers of UNMIK have gone to Mitrovica.

Condemning the violence, UNMIK said such hatred threatens to derail the progress the people of Kosovo have made. The Interim Administrative Council also denounced the violence and called on inhabitants of Kosovo to refrain from further violence and any retaliatory actions, and to cooperate with UNMIK Police and KFOR in the investigation of the incidents and on finding ways to prevent further outbreaks of violence.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata also condemned the violence, which has resulted in new expulsions of ethnic Albanians in the divided city. "The violence against Serbs and Albanians must be brought to a halt and the humanitarian mission of UNHCR and its partners must be respected on the ground in Kosovo."