UN Administrator defiant in face of Kosovo violence

KOSOVSKA MITROVICA, Yugoslavia, Feb 7, 2000 -- (Reuters) The head of Kosovo's United Nations administration vowed on Sunday that extremists responsible for a new outbreak of violence would not derail efforts to bring peace to the province.

Eight people died and more than 20 were wounded in a chaotic night of shootings, arson and explosives attacks in the Serb-dominated northern part of the ethnically divided city of Mitrovica on Thursday.

Cutting short an overseas trip to visit the area, Bernard Kouchner said his first priority was to restore calm.

"Always, when you are making progress, always, the enemies of peace, the enemies of reconciliation, the enemies of a future, are making their dirty business," Kouchner said.

"They will not succeed."

The former French health minister was speaking just a few hours after Neriman Xhaka, 46, an ethnic Albanian victim of the violence, was laid to rest.

Kouchner flew in from Tokyo where he was raising funds for the U.N. mission in Kosovo. He condemned that attack as cowardly and "absolutely disgusting".

The clashes on Thursday were among the most serious since the U.N. and the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force arrived in June. KFOR has now imposed a night curfew and moved more troops into Mitrovica.

The death toll from the clashes rose to eight on Sunday when an ethnic Albanian died from her injuries in hospital, the U.N. said. Albanians say all the dead were from their community but international authorities say two were ethnic Turks.

Situation tense

Also on Sunday, more than 1,000 ethnic Albanians gathered by the south side of the bridge separating the town into Albanian-and Serb-dominated sectors and held a mainly silent protest.

Some protesters carried a placard saying: "We want security for everyone."

On the other side, a few hundred Serbs gathered. Loud traditional Serb music could be heard from the north side.

In between, French peacekeepers and Italian carabinieri guarded the bridge with barbed wire barriers on each side.

Sunday was the third successive day of confrontations at Mitrovica's main bridge. Peacekeepers are investigating the shooting of an ethnic Albanian aged about 15, who was admitted to hospital on Saturday afternoon.

A KFOR spokesman said there was no sign any of its troops had fired a shot during protests on Saturday. Local people have alleged the youth was hit by a shot from the Serb sector.

The U.N. and NATO took de facto control of Kosovo after NATO bombing to end repression of the Yugoslav province's ethnic Albanian majority drove out Serb forces.

They have struggled to contain both Serbs and Albanians bent on continuing ethnic rivalry.

Before his wife's funeral, Gani Xhaka described how an explosion ripped off the door of his family's apartment and attackers then threw several grenades inside. The grenades ripped open his wife's stomach, and wounded his daughter aged 12 and a neighbor's two children.

He called for help from the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force and U.N. police, but it was more than four hours before he and his family were rescued from rampaging Serbs.

"They tried to help us but there were very few of them," he told reporters, standing outside the city's main mosque with his wife's coffin draped in a cloth lying nearby. "They couldn't get through because of the Serbs."

The clashes came the day after a rocket attack on a United Nations bus, travelling between two Serb areas in the Mitrovica region, killed two Serbs and wounded three.

Original article