Nato seizes weapons in flashpoint Kosovo city

PRISTINA, Serbia, Feb 20, 2000 -- (Reuters) NATO-led peacekeepers in Kosovo said on Saturday they had seized weapons including rocket launchers and semi-automatic rifles in the flashpoint city of Mitrovica.

Soldiers confiscated five AK-47 rifles, four rocket launchers, a pistol, 10 hand grenades and some ammunition in raids on two areas of northern Mitrovica on Friday, a Kosovo Force (KFOR) spokesman said.

Ethnically divided Mitrovica, dubbed "the most dangerous place in Europe" on Friday by U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke, has been the scene of several eruptions of violence between Serbs and Albanians recently.

Northern Mitrovica is dominated by Serbs but also has areas populated by ethnic Albanians, who form the vast majority of Kosovo's total population. Two Serbs and an Albanian have been arrested in connection with the raids, police said.

Officials at Kosovo's United Nations-led administration have noted an increase in attacks on ethnic minorities elsewhere in the province since armed violence first erupted in northern Mitrovica earlier this month.

Finnish troops found two Serb men shot dead near the village of Gornja Gusterica, southeast of the provincial capital Pristina, on Friday evening, the KFOR spokesman said. Ten suspects, all Albanians, were arrested.

Kosovo Albanians have protested strongly against the current division of Mitrovica, where they formed the majority in both halves of the city before fleeing Serb repression during NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia last year.

Serbs say they have grouped together in northern Mitrovica for their own protection, having been driven out of other places by the ethnic Albanian revenge attacks which have plagued postwar Kosovo.

Organizers said on Saturday that Albanians would stage a march from Pristina to Mitrovica, some 40 km to the northwest, on Monday to demonstrate against the situation in the city.

International authorities and local politicians have said only a small delegation of protesters will be allowed into the city itself for security reasons.

At least nine people have died and more than 20, including two French peacekeepers, have been wounded in the recent outbreaks of violence in Mitrovica.

Original article