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At Least Five Killed, 200 Injured in Kosovo Clash

Wednesday, March 17, 2004; 9:41 AM

MITROVICA, Serbia and Montenegro, March 17 -- At least five people were reported killed and up to 200 injured on Wednesday in the worst street clashes between Kosovo Serbs and Albanians in four years under United Nations protection.

Violence erupted in mid-morning in the ethnically divided flashpoint city of Mitrovica and shots were still being fired four hours later as hundreds of Polish riot police, French gendarmes and NATO troops struggled to disperse protesters.  World Peace.

Two red-and-white U.N. police jeeps burned fiercely and wreaths of tear gas drifted over the area as troops moving block to block tried to clear a central security zone and ambulances wailed into the drab downtown area.

"It is a mad situation," a spokeswoman for U.N. police told Reuters by telephone. "It is going to be very bad."

Hundreds of Albanians had gathered in their southern half of the city to vent their rage at the drowning deaths on Tuesday of two children said by Albanian media to have been hounded into a river by Serbs.

U.N. officials said newspapers had rushed to judgment, despite knowing the risk of igniting an Albanian riot.

As police moved in firing teargas and rubber bullets to stop protesters crossing the bridge into the Serbian sector of Mitrovica, a Reuters reporter saw a man on the Serb side fire a Kalashnikov rifle into the crowd and two Albanians fire back with revolvers.

Hospital sources on the Albanian side later reported four dead and up to 200 injured, one killed by a handgrenade thrown by from the Serb side. A radio reporter on the Serb side of the clash said a woman was shot dead in her home by a stray bullet.


Clashes also erupted in the southern village of Caglavica on Wednesday, as minority Serbs blocked roads for a third day to protest the drive-by shooting of an 18-year-old Serb who was seriously wounded. 

A house was set ablaze and at least one handgrenade exploded as U.N. police and NATO troops moved in to stop thousands of Albanians from the capital Pristina trying to reach the flashpoint on foot.

Kosovo has been under the rule of the United Nations and NATO peacekeepers since the Western alliance bombed Serbia during an Albanian guerrilla uprising, aiming to halt Serb repression of independence-seeking ethnic Albanians.

Almost five years later, parts of the Serbian province remain an ethnic tinderbox, with no hint of the reconciliation international agencies have sought to foster. Mitrovica's clashes were the worst since February 2000 when eight died.

Tensions flared after two Albanian boys drowned in the Ibar River, in what Albanians believe was a revenge attack for the Caglavica shooting on Monday night.

The drownings occurred not far from Mitrovica.

"We found two bodies, one last night and one this morning and we are still looking for one child who is missing," said Tracy Becker, spokeswoman for U.N. police in Mitrovica.

Kosovo Albanian television on Tuesday quoted a fourth boy as saying he and friends were chased by Serb children and had jumped into the Ibar to escape. He said he swam with his little brother on his back, but the boy slipped off and went under.


How can we manifest peace on earth if we do not include everyone (all races, all nations, all religions, both sexes) in our vision of Peace?

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