YU officer accuses Kosovo fighters of causing trouble in Serbia
BELGRADE, Mar 6, 2000 -- (Reuters) A Yugoslav army officer has accused the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) of carrying out terrorism to destablise Albanian communities in southern Serbia, the independent agency Beta said on Sunday.
"Terrorist acts are being committed by the Kosovo Liberation Army who are trying to destabilise the regions of Bujanovac and Presevo," said Lieutenant-colonel Zarko Lazarevic, who heads the Bujanovac garrison which controls the region.
Although the UCK has officially been disarmed and turned into a civilian protection force (KPC) by the United Nations, Lazarevic insisted it was the UCK that was behind recent troubles in the area.
The NATO-led Kosovo peacekeeping force (KFOR) has confirmed that a group of armed Albanians wearing uniforms, which calls itself the Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovc Liberation Army (UCPMB) had set up a base at Dobrosin near Bujanovac.
KFOR reported shooting on Friday night between Serb police officers and armed Albanians at Dobrosin causing 70 residents to flee to Kosovo.
Meanwhile, inside Kosovo, over 1,000 members of the KPC marched military-style through the streets of Prekaz in central Drenica region in a memorial service for an ethnic Albanian warlord slain by Serb troops two years ago.
"By being united, we soldiers of the KLA, who joined the ranks of the KPC, will make of the KPC the force that Kosovo really needs," said the KPC commander General Agim Ceku in a speech given under the Albanian two-headed eagle flag and punctuated by celebratory salvoes of Kalashnikov gunfire from youths in KLA berets.
Lazarevic denied that the Yugoslav army was gathering its forces in southwest Serbia.
"Only units that were here before the war (the NATO bombings in Spring 1998) are still here," he said, adding that for the moment, there was no reason to raise the alert.
The officer said the Yugoslav army had good relations with the 75,000-strong Albanian population in the region.
"The large majority of the Albanian population is loyal to Serbia and has not desire to commit terrorist acts," the lieutenant-colonel said.
"As soon as the first incidents happened, we knew the local population was not involved and that it was elements that had filtered across from Kosovo," the mayor of Bujanovac, Stojance Arsic said.
Arsic said he believed the situation in Kosovo was having repercussions on Bujanovac.
"If the international community succeeds in disarming the last members of the UCK and stopping their incursion on Bujanovac territory, all the problems will be resolved," he added.