Kosovo UN head unveils security measures for divided town

KOSOVSKA MITROVICA, Yugoslavia, Feb 12, 2000 -- (FP) Kosovo's UN head Bernard Kouchner unveiled a series of measures Friday aimed at improving security here as more ethnic Albanians fled the north of this ethnically split town.

The steps include more mobile and fixed checkpoints, stricter control of the Yugoslav province's boundaries, more soldiers of the KFOR peacekeeping force and an extra 300 UN policemen in the Serb-dominated north.

There were only 30 police out of a total force 70 in place when mob violence rocked the north of the town last week, leaving eight ethnic Albanians dead.

Kouchner also said the zone around the bridge would be closed to demonstrations. Sixteen French peacekeepers were wounded last week during ethnic Albanian riots in the area protesting at the deaths.

Troublemakers will also be expelled from the town in line with existing UN regulations on Kosovo.

The commander of the French-led multinational brigade, French General Pierre de Saqui de Sannes, warned that the measures could not guarantee total security for the town's citizens.

"Even with all the measures we can put in place, if tomorrow there is another attack, if someone throws a grenade in a cafe or kills someone in their apartment, we cannot do much about it," he told AFP.

Since last Thursday's night of violence -- sparked by a grenade attack on a Serb cafe which injured 15 -- more than 650 ethnic Albanians have fled from the north to the Muslim south amid fears about their safety.

Albanians continue to flee Mitrovica's north side for the Albanian-populated southern part of the city, Kouchner said. "They are leaving because they are afraid and threatened. But in northern Kosovo, Serbs are also fleeing because they are threatened, because they are afraid," he explained.

"The worst aspect of ethnic cleansing is that it is carried out with the same words and motives on the two sides," Kouchner said.

After visiting an Albanian family on the north side, Kouchner met two Albanians, their belongings stuffed into plastic bags, on the bridge separating the city's two sides. They were heading south.

"It's become very difficult to live there, we are not happy," one of them, a woman of about 50, told Kouchner. "Since this morning we've been calling the police and the KFOR to evacuate us, but they never came," she said.

"We will help you get back," Kouchner promised the pair.

Original article