Kosovo fighting dies out after rebel loss

Report
from Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
Published on 17 Aug 1998
Fighting died out in Serbia's Kosovo province on Monday, a day after Serb security forces took control of one of the separatist rebels' last bastions.

Serbian sources said a mopping-up operation in the Pec district, including the village of Lodja, that followed the fall of the western hill town of Junic on Sunday, was over.

The sources said two Serbian policemen were killed late on Sunday in Kosovo Liberattion Army (KLA) guerrillas' attack at police stations in two villages on the Pristina-Prizren road, in southwestern Kosovo.

Ethnic Albanian sources did not report any new fighting on Monday. Late on Sunday, they said that the fighting raged in the village of Lodja, near Pec.

Reporters who were escorted to Junik on Sunday saw large plumes of smoke billowing from villages some three km (two miles) away from Pec and heard at least two loud explositions.

The town of Pec itself was almost completely deserted on Sunday.

Junik fell after troops besieged it for more than two weeks. Two Yugoslav soldiers and four policemen were killed in the last battle before Serbian security forces drove KLA guerrillas out of the town.

The loss of Junik was bound to be a military and psychological blow for the KLA, which is fighting for Kosovo's independence from Serbia.

It gives Belgrade the upper hand in peace talks that ethnic Albanians have agreed to resume under intense pressure from the United States. No dates for the talks has been set.

Meanwhile, the Albanian-language daily Koha Ditore said on some 40,000 people took shelter in a four-kilometre-long (two mile) strip in the Decani River area.

The report could not be independently confirmed. The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, in Pristina said they did not have any fresh numbers on refugees who fled the recent fighting.

Relief agencies have previously estimated that about 200,000 people, or 10 percent of Kosovo's population, have been uprooted by the fighting.

Koha Ditore also said that KLA guerrillas were back in the village of Glodjane, in western Kosovo.

Serbian security forces took Glodjane last week, but left after a while. Koha's reporter said that dozens of houses were burned and several were leveled. There were no civilians in the village.

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