Blast in heating plant near Kosovo border

BELGRADE, Feb 27, 2000 -- (AFP) An explosive device went off in a heating plant in the southern Serbian town of Bujanovac, near the border with Kosovo, the state news agency Tanjug reported Saturday.

More than 36 tons of heating oil poured into the streets of Bujanovac after the blast late Friday in the town's main heating plant, the agency said, adding that there were no casualties.

Local authorities blamed ethnic Albanian "terrorists" of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), "who want to create a psychosis of panic and fear," the agency said.

Since the withdrawal of Belgrade troops from Kosovo last June, tensions have risen in the region bordering the province.

Some 100,000 people, mostly ethnic Albanians, live in the Bujanovac region. There is a five-kilometer (three-mile) demilitarized zone on the boundary, from which Yugoslav troops and special police as well as NATO-led peacekeepers based in Kosovo (KFOR) have been banned.

The zone remains open to local Serbian police under an accord between NATO and Belgrade.

Since last June, some 25,000 Albanians have fled the region of Medvedja, Bujanovac and Presevo to avoid Serb reprisals, the Belgrade branch of Helsinki Human Rights Committee said in its 1999 report.

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