Ethnic Albanians leave Serb side of Kosovska Mitrovica

PRISTINA, Feb 7, 2000 -- (AFP) Nearly 500 ethnic Albanians have left their homes in the predominantly-Serb northern part of Kosovska Mitrovica since violence last week left at least eight people dead, a U.N. official said Monday.

"Nearly 500 people have crossed into the southern part of the town," said U.N. Kosovo mission (UNMIK) spokeswoman Susan Manuel. Virtually no Serbs are left in the south of the town.

Serbs had announced plans for a demonstration Monday in northern Mitrovica.

After violence flared in Mitrovica, the main town in northern Kosovo last week, French peacekeepers closed both bridges over the Ibar, separating the ethnic Albanian and Serb parts of town.

The main bridge was later the site of violence in which 16 soldiers and riot police were injured by stone- and bottle-throwing crowds of up to 1,000 people.

The troubled town -- under an 8:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. curfew -- was calm overnight, a spokesman for the Kosovo international peacekeeping force (KFOR) said Monday.

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