Mitrovica Serbs worship in Muslim sector

Sunday, 30 April, 2000

A group of 50 Kosovo Serbs have celebrated Easter in the mainly Albanian sector of the divided town of Mitrovica.
They were escorted under heavy guard by Nato peacekeepers to an Orthodox church situated on the southern side of the river Ibar, which divides the two communities.
Serb leaders had warned of a possible escalation of ethnic clashes after Albanian residents threw stones at buses bringing Serbs to worship at the church - the only one in Mitrovica - on Good Friday.
However, all the Serbs were reported to have returned home safely.
The ethnic Albanian leader of the southern sector, Bajram Rexhepi, who was on hand for the Easter service to calm any trouble, said the Albanians had been provoked on Good Friday when worshippers made the three-fingered Serbian salute at people standing nearby.
The Easter visit to the church was reported to have passed without incident.
The church was surrounded about 20 armoured vehicles and about 150 French, Danish and Italian troops from Nato's K-For peace implementation force, many of them wearing riot-gear.
The Serbian leader of Mitrovica, Oliver Ivanovic, is said to have been among the worshippers.

Mr Ivanovic had earlier met with the local K-For commander, General Pierre de Saqui de Sannes, and told him that violence would continue unless the Albanians were made to leave the northern part of the town and only those who had lived there before were allowed to return.
He said many Serbs had stayed at home because of tensions caused by recent events.
Many Serbs prefer to worship in Zvecane, a few kilometres to the north of the city.
There were several violent flare-ups on Saturday when Serbs attacked Kosovo Albanians in the northern sector and a mob tried to block a convoy of K-For trucks bringing about 80 other Albanians back from a market in the south.
The Serbs said more Albanians were entering the Serb-dominated sector than had left.
Later a crowd of Serbs clashed with the peacekeepers and burned five UN vehicles.

Original article