CEOL - Tensions Grow On Kosovo-Serbia Border After Police Attacks

BELGRADE, Nov 25, 1999 -- (AFP) Tensions mounted on the border between Kosovo province, after two Serbian policemen were killed and eight wounded in attacks blamed by Belgrade on infiltrating ethnic Albanian "terrorists." In the latest incident, two policemen were wounded late Tuesday in the region of southern town Bujanovac, near the Macedonian border and just east of Kosovo.

According to the Tanjug state news agency, the attackers were ethnic "Albanian terrorists" who "most probably came from Kosovo."

On Sunday, two policemen were killed and six others wounded in the Kursumlija region, north of Kosovo, in a mine blast blamed on the "Albanian terrorists" of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

The mine was placed 200 meters (yards) from the border with Kosovo, a police source told AFP.

Following the attacks, the Yugoslav army and Serbian police reinforced patrols in the area, the independent Beta news agency reported.

These were the most serious incidents in southern Serbia bordering Kosovo since a NATO-led multinational force was deployed in the province in June, a source close to the Serbian police said.

Belgrade troops fought KLA guerillas for more than a year before the March-June NATO bombing campaign on Yugoslavia, ended when Yugoslav security forces agreed to withdraw and KFOR deployed its force.

The administrative crossing line between Kosovo and the rest of Serbia has since become a de-facto border, guarded by KFOR soldiers, while only Serb police can be deployed in a five kilometer (three mile) buffer zone.

Following the KFOR deployment and Kosovo coming under U.N. administration, the KLA officially demilitarized in September under the auspices of the U.N. and transformed into a civilian defense corps.

Stanimir Vukicevic, head of the Yugoslav Committee for relations with the U.N. mission in Kosovo, told AFP the two attacks against the Serb police show that "the KLA wants to destabilize the administrative border with central Serbia".

And Zoran Andjelkovic, the vice-president of the committee, said that the Sunday attack was "only one of the proofs that the information according to which the KLA was disarmed are false". In reality, "the KLA pursues its terrorist actions on the territory of Kosovo and along the administrative border with central Serbia," Andjelkovic said.

A source close to the police said the attacks came after a series of "around 15 incidents " that have happened in the region since June, which has risen tensions in the area.

In the region of Kursumlija, Serbian civilians who remained in the areas just next to the administrative border with Kosovo are "bitter and scared," fearing that clashes in this, Belgrade-controlled territory might increase, asource said.

And Bujanovac and Presevo regions, largely populated by Albanians, non-government groups have warned of growing tension between the Serbian and ethnic Albanian communities living there.

Ethnic Albanians living in southern villages in Serbia, near the border, were leaving for Kosovo and Macedonia after the end of the war, but not massively, an official of the Belgrade-based Humanitarian Law Center said. Some ethnic Albanian villages have been left without residents, but these departures are more motivated by the economic reasons than an organized pressure, he added.

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