Thousands mourn brothers killed on Kosovo-Serbia boundary

BILINICA, Yugoslavia, Jan 31, 2000 -- (AFP) Thousands of ethnic Albanians turned out Sunday for the funeral of two brothers allegedly shot dead by Serbian police near the boundary between Kosovo and the rest of Serbia, witnesses said.

Mourners returning to this Kosovo village, a few hundred meters (yards) from the eastern boundary, said that between 3,000 and 5,000 people had paid their last respects to the Saqipi brothers, who left behind them nine children.

Relatives and local inhabitants said the ethnic Albanian brothers, Isa, 35, and Shaip, 31, were shot dead by Serbian police while chopping firewood near their home village of Dobrosin, a few hundred meters inside Serbia.

The two men were buried in Dobrosin Sunday with Albanian flags draped over their coffins. Mourners included 10 men in Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) uniforms, said Bilinica shopkeeper Seljer Zenuni, 42, who attended the funeral.

Other mourners said some of them had come to the burial from as far away as Kosovo's central Drenica region.

They said that Serbian police stayed away from the funeral but had stopped ethnic Albanians from the southwestern region of Serbia from attending, putting up checkpoints on the roads.

The region of Serbia is home to up to 100,000 ethnic Albanians, thousands of whom have fled to Kosovo since June for fear of intimidation by Serbian police, rights groups in Kosovo said.

Ethnic Albanians call the area "East Kosovo" and have regularly reported human right abuses they say are committed by Serbian police.

The Democratic Action Party (PDD), which heads the council in Presevo, one of the main towns in the area, published a statement Wednesday calling for the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to send verification missions to the region.

Dobrosin lies in a three-mile (five-kilometer) demilitarized zone on the boundary, banned to Yugoslav troops and special police as well as to peacekeepers, but still open to local police under an accord between NATO and Belgrade.