CEOL
Kosovo peacekeepers resume Mitrovica weapons hunt

PRISTINA, Feb 23, 2000 -- (Reuters) NATO-led peacekeepers in Kosovo on Wednesday resumed their search for weapons in the turbulent northern city of Kosovska Mitrovica, a spokesman for the force said.

"The searches are going on again..." said British Warrant Officer Mark Cox.

Cox said the searches would be conducted by troops of KFOR, the multinational peacekeeping force in Kosovo, including U.S. troops whose aggressive tactics, including smashing down doors, angered residents in the northern, Serb-dominated side of the divided city.

The searches, which KFOR hopes will eventually calm the seething tension between Mitrovica's Albanians and Serbs, were temporarily suspended during a huge Albanian-led demonstration on Monday and for a time on Tuesday, Cox said.

"They were suspended the day before yesterday because the troops were needed for control of the demonstration," Cox said.

The searches were also suspended on Tuesday while about 1,000 miners demonstrated peacefully near a bridge which divides the city. But Cox said that contrary to some reports the searches were resumed later in the day.

He said that since the hunt for weapons began on Sunday, KFOR troops had confiscated 24 rifles, including AK-47s, seven or eight pistols, eight blocks of plastic explosive, a heavy machinegun and tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition.

Kosovska Mitrovica, about 30 miles (40 kilometers) north of the provincial capital Pristina, has become the flashpoint of tension between Serbs and Kosovo's majority ethnic Albanians.

Albanians are demanding access to the Serb-dominated north of the city, but Serbs fear that if the Albanians are allowed to enter they will terrorize Serbs and force them to leave.




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