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UNHCR condemns violence in Kosovo

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The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees expressed alarm Friday over a wave of ethnic violence in the northern Kosovo city of Mitrovica that has resulted in new expulsions of ethnic Albanians and the burning of two UNHCR vehicles 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," High Commissioner Sadako Ogata said.

Three Albanians were killed and some 20 Serbs injured overnight Thursday in the wake of Wednesday's rocket attack on a UNHCR bus that left two passengers dead. The bus was ferrying nearly 50 ethnic Serbs between enclaves in northern Kosovo.

UNHCR's eight bus lines, operating in Kosovo since last autumn, have been suspended since Wednesday's rocket attack.

"It is deeply alarming that one of UNHCR's most important initiatives in Kosovo to promote freedom of movement and to improve the situation for minority communities was directly targeted by those persons who wish to foster ethnic separation and hatred," Mrs. Ogata said.

UNHCR staff in Kosovo reported that explosives ripped off the doors on the homes of ethnic Albanians living in predominantly Serb northern Mitrovica overnight and the residents were told to leave the area.

UNHCR staff, along with personnel from the U.N. Mission in Kosovo and KFOR, are meeting with communities in the divided city in efforts to calm the situation.