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Reuters, March 18, 2004
NATO Warns Albanians, Serbs Brace for More Attacks

By Fredrik Dahl

PRISTINA, Serbia and Montenegro (Reuters) - Albanians set fire to Serb churches across Kosovo on Thursday in a second day of attacks as NATO boosted its force by 1,000 and vowed to stamp out ethnic violence with "robust" action.

Serbia and Montenegro's Defense Minister Boris Tadic said he expected more violence in the majority Albanian province and appealed to NATO to do more to calm the "terrible situation."

"I am afraid there will be more attacks during the night. This is an emergency situation and we need the help of the international community," Tadic told a news conference in Bratislava, where he was attending a European forum.

The appeal came after the worst ethnic clashes in Kosovo since NATO and the United Nations took control of the province from Serbia in 1999.

At least 23 people -- Albanians and Serbs -- were killed, and 500 wounded, of whom 20 were in intensive care.

"The thousands of ethnic Albanians that attacked KFOR,
the police, Serb enclaves and churches should be aware
of robust reserve forces," KFOR mission commander Gen.
Holger Kammerhoff of Germany told reporters in the
capital, Pristina.

Commanders of the multinational brigades were
authorized to use "proportional force necessary to
ensure safety of our soldiers, to protect the innocent
people of Kosovo and reestablish freedom of movement
of all of Kosovo," he said.

A Serb official in Lipljan, central Kosovo, said about
300 Albanians were trying to enter a church protected
by Finnish U.N. peacekeeping troops.

Some had thrown hand grenades and Finnish troops had
fired back, municipal leader Borivoje Vignjevic told

One church was torched in the flashpoint town of
Mitrovica despite the efforts of French NATO
peacekeepers, who fired tear gas and rubber bullets to
drive off the mob.

NATO troops also fired gas and plastic rounds to stop
an Albanian crowd that was marching on Caglavica, a
Serb village hard hit in the violence.

In the central town of Obilic, Serbs appealed to KFOR
for weapons to defend themselves as Albanians, whose
religion is Islam, set fire to their homes and drove
them out.

"There are no more Serbs in Obilic. ... Cerska street
is on fire!" local Serb Mirce Jakoljevic told
Belgrade's B92 radio. "I urge our state to exert the
strongest possible pressure on KFOR to send us

The Olibic church was set ablaze, one of 15 churches
and monasteries attacked according to the church in


The Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Gen. James L.
Jones -- one of whose predecessors Gen. Wesley Clark
bombed Serbia to force it out of Kosovo -- said extra
troops were part of "a prudent reinforcement of the
some 18,500 already there.

"The reinforcements include a battalion-sized, rapid
response reserve force" to be deployed where needed,
he said.

The violence began Monday when a Serb teen-ager was
wounded in a drive-by shooting. The following day
Albanian boys drowned in a river, reportedly after
being chased by Serbs. Wednesday, the province

Serbia's main representative on Kosovo, Nebojsa Covic
told Serbs in Mitrovica the violence "has all been
organized in advance and pre-planned by Albanians and
their lobbyists."

"This might be the decisive battle for Kosovo and the
survival of Serbs in Kosovo and we must win," he said,

In a session of the Kosovo parliament, representatives
of three main Albanian parties said the only way to
calm Kosovo down was to declare its independence -- a
constant demand held at bay by the United Nations
which wants peace before any status decision.

U.S. soldiers blocked the Pristina-Mitrovica road and
were checking all travelers as 150 more U.S. troops
and 80 Italian carabinieri came in and Britain readied
750 troops.

In Serbia, the Interior Ministry put paramilitary
police on the boundary with Kosovo on the top level of
combat readiness.

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said
Albanians were bent on driving the remaining Serbs out
and urged the U.N. Security Council to act to deter
such "ethnic cleansing."

"We cannot protect our people in Kosovo with a
military force but we can protect them with politics
and we are doing our best to do so," said deputy prime
minister Miroljub Labus.

The widespread outburst of pent-up ethnic hatred
suggested reconciliation between the two communities
was years away.

Angry protesters in Serbia's three main cities stoned
and burned mosques and other Islamic buildings
Wednesday night, furious at what they said was NATO's
failure to check Albanian "terrorism."

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