UN police report attacks on Serbs

Friday, Jan. 7, 2000

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia –– Ethnic Albanians attacked Serbs in a series of scattered incidents as Kosovo's dwindling Serbian community celebrated Orthodox Christmas, U.N. police and Yugoslav media reported Friday.

An ethnic Albanian gang killed two Serb women who were on their way to a Christmas Day liturgy Friday in the southwestern city of Prizren, Yugoslavia's government-run Tanjug news agency said.

NATO spokesmen in the provincial capital, Pristina, said they had no information on the incident, which Tanjug said took place about 8:30 a.m.

The latest reported violence came hours before Bernard Kouchner, the top international official in the province, joined Serbian church leaders for a celebratory luncheon in Kosovo's main Serbian Orthodox monastery of Gracanica.

Orthodox churches worldwide celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7.

Before the meal in the monastery, priests handed small gifts to Serb children. Cars and houses were bedecked with Serb flags and the traditional symbol of dried oak branches.

The mood was hardly festive, however, as some Serbs vowed revenge on ethnic Albanians and the NATO-led forces that launched an air attack on Yugoslavia last spring.

"Even if there was a sort of celebration, it was very sad like in a funeral and not the day when Christ was born," said Bishop Artemije of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

On Thursday, ethnic Albanians, who are predominantly Muslim, attacked and beat three Serb men who were heading to Christmas Eve celebrations in the village of Lipljan, five miles south of Pristina, U.N. police said.

A Serb man was shot and killed Wednesday in Prizren, and another Serb man was shot and wounded Thursday by a gunman firing from a car with no license plates in the town of Kosovo Polje, U.N. police said.

The United Nations and NATO have been unable to stop attacks by ethnic Albanians against Kosovo's Serbs, despite the presence of about 50,000 peacekeepers.

Those attacks began after the 78-day NATO bombing campaign forced Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to halt his 18-month crackdown against separatists and withdraw police and soldiers from the majority ethnic Albanian province in June.

The United States says more than 10,000 ethnic Albanians were killed during the crackdown and more than 800,000 fled their homes and sought shelter in neighboring countries.

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