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Peacekeepers Report Calm Night in Kosovo City

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KOSOVSKA MITROVICA, Yugoslavia (Reuters) - NATO-led peacekeepers in Kosovo said Wednesday it was calm overnight in the volatile city of Mitrovica following the latest eruption of ethnic violence there.

More than 40 people, including 17 French soldiers, were wounded in the outbreak Tuesday, which included several grenade explosions and a rocket attack. Almost all of the wounded were reported to be not seriously hurt. ''Overnight, the situation was quiet, no different from the night before,'' said Lt. Matthieu Mabin, a spokesman for the KFOR peacekeeping force in the ethnically divided city in northern Kosovo.

''We had normal patrols out. There were no special reinforcements,'' he added.

Reporters in the city Wednesday morning said they heard some sort of explosion at around 0835 GMT but the cause and exact location of the blast were not immediately clear.

French forces who patrol the city had no immediate reports of damage or casualties.

Grenade attacks on property, which cause no injuries, have been fairly common in Mitrovica over the past few weeks.

Peacekeepers struggle daily to prevent clashes between Serbs and ethnic Albanians in the industrial city. Albanians dominate the area south of the River Ibar, which runs through the city, while Serbs form a majority in the north.

Albanians are angry that Serbs are preventing them going back to the homes in northern Mitrovica they lived in before last year's conflict in the Yugoslav province.

The Serbs say they have grouped together in northern Mitrovica for their own protection, having been driven out of many other parts of Kosovo by attacks of ethnic Albanians avenging years of Serbian repression.

KFOR described Tuesday's violence as a local dispute between Serbs and Albanians.

''It was in a small area and a local problem. The challenge was to make sure that it remained local,'' Mabin said.

''What was important was to respond very quickly. We had, in the area, about 300 soldiers, which was enough.''

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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