CEOL - UN police arrest Kosovo Albanians for murders

PRISTINA, Serbia, Dec 21, 1999 -- (Reuters) U.N. police said on Monday they had arrested four Kosovo Albanians for murdering Serbs and Gypsies, in an apparent coup for international authorities criticized for failing to restore law and order in Kosovo.

The police said in a statement a 32-year-old man was arrested in Pristina early on Monday morning with the help of NATO-led peacekeeping troops after his three accomplices were taken into custody last week.

The three accomplices, aged 20 to 25, were suspected of abducting five victims and bringing them to the 32-year-old who carried out the killings.

The murders took place in the Lukare area a few kilometers (miles) outside Pristina over the last two months, police said.

Postwar Kosovo has seen more than 400 murders, a disproportionate number of them revenge attacks against its minority Serb population and Gypsies.

Gypsies are considered by many ethnic Albanians to have cooperated with Serb authorities in the persecution and expulsion of Albanians before and during NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia this year.

Tens of thousands of Serbs and Gypsies have fled Kosovo since the pullout of Serb forces and the return of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians. U.N. police said the four arrested men were believed to be members of the fledgling Kosovo Protection Corps - an organization currently being set up by international authorities to absorb thousands of disarmed members of the separatist ethnic Albanian guerrilla Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

Police said they could give no more details because the cases were still under investigation.

Since taking control of the province six months ago, international authorities have been anxious to ensure that the heavily-politicized former KLA should not become Kosovo's new police force, and the protection corps is supposed to help only with disaster relief and reconstruction.

Instead, a completely new Kosovo police force is being slowly recruited from scratch, but fewer than 200 Kosovan police are so far on the beat with some 1,800 international officers.

U.N. mission chief Bernard Kouchner complained bitterly last week that U.N. member states had failed to provide a promised 6,000 officers for Kosovo or as much cash as needed for the force, calling the shortfall "ridiculous and a scandal".

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