Serbia + 1 more

Three dead, 21 wounded in Kosovo violence

By Andrew Gray

PRISTINA, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Three people were shot dead and 21 wounded in overnight violence between ethnic Serbs and Albanians in the northern Kosovo city of Mitrovica, the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force said on Friday.

A spokesman for French peacekeepers who control the city said trouble flared on Thursday evening when an attacker threw a grenade at a Serb cafe. Around the same time, two ethnic Albanians were found shot dead.

The violence came the day after a rocket attack on a United Nations bus in the Mitrovica region which killed two Serbs and wounded three more, heightening tensions between Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority and the Serb minority.

The French spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel Patrick Chanliau, said around 500 Serbs had gathered in the Serb-dominated northern half of the divided city after the grenade attack and had clashed with ethnic Albanians.

Around 15 Serbs were injured on the attack on the cafe, he said, and six Albanians were wounded in the violence. A woman, believed to be Albanian but whose ethnicity was still to be confirmed, was found shot dead in her apartment.

Several properties were also set on fire in the course of the evening, the spokesman said. Troops blocked the city's two main bridges to prevent the Serbs from entering Albanian- dominated southern Mitrovica.

The commander of Kosovo's northern military sector, French General Pierre de Saqui de Sannes, met leaders of both communities at around midnight and asked them to appeal for calm. They did as they were asked, the spokesman said.

"The situation then calmed progressively," Chanliau told Reuters by satellite telephone from Mitrovica.

Local community leaders and international officials had feared the attack on the bus on a remote mountain road about 15 km (nine miles) southwest of Mitrovica could spark reprisals and fuel a new cycle of violence in the province.

The bus, operated by the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR, was taking about 50 Serbs from Mitrovica to a Serb enclave.

Many Kosovo Serbs now live in such KFOR-protected enclaves, having fled their homes in fear of revenge attacks by ethnic Albanians, angry at years of Serb repression.

As one of the few cities in Kosovo still with a substantial Serb population, Mitrovica has been a flashpoint since KFOR and the U.N. took control of Kosovo, which legally remains part of Yugoslavia, following the withdrawal of Serb forces last June.


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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