Elderly Serb woman latest victim of Kosovo ethnic hatred

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia, Apr 1, 2000 -- (AFP) A 70-year-old Serbian woman was dragged out of her house after being savagely beaten by unidentified assailants, the UN's refugee agency in Kosovo said Friday.

The agency seized on the attack as an example of the "horrific lack of community initiative" demonstrated by the overwhelmingly ethnic Albanian community in the southern Kosovo town of Prizren when it came to dealing with hate crimes.

The woman was attacked in her Prizren home before her assailants dragged her outside and left her in the street, said Peter Kessler, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

The woman has been taken to hospital in Pristina where her condition is described as serious, Kessler added.

"Also distressing is the lack of interest from medical personnel to attend non-Albanian patients," he said, recalling how Prizren doctors failed to respond to a call to help an elderly Croat man dying of a heart attack on March 22.

He said that on March 21 the town's local authorities refused to remove the body of a Serb man who died of natural causes in his own home.

At least one vacant Serb house has been torched by arsonists every week since the end of 1999, Kessler said, adding that Bosnian homes had also been targeted.

"These attacks are destroying the fabric of the Prizren region, its community and architectural heritage," he said.

Prizren, some 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of the provincial capital Pristina, is one of the rare historical towns left intact after the conflict between Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority and Serbs.

Revenge attacks against non-Serbs in Kosovo have been commonplace since NATO bombed Belgrade's forces out of Kosovo last June in a bid to halt massive oppression of ethnic Albanians.

Some 240,000 non-Albanians have fled the UN-administered Yugoslav province since then, according to the UNHCR.

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