Kosovo Serb cafe owner shot dead in political row

ZUBIN POTOK, Apr 24, 2000 -- (Reuters) A cafe owner in a Kosovo Serb town was shot dead for refusing to pay protection money to suspected Serb hard-line sympathizers, relatives said on Sunday.

The gunman came with several friends to the Hram cafe in Zubin Potok in the far north of Kosovo, a Serb majority pocket, on Saturday night to demand protection money from Mirko Bisevac, according to his brother Bosko.

When Bisevac refused, he was shot with an automatic weapon. Six cafe guests were wounded in a hail of bullets, the brother told Reuters. The gunman and his friends escaped.

The injured were in a stable condition on Sunday at a hospital in the Serb-controlled north side of the city of Kosovska Mitrovica, whose south is Albanian-dominated, duty officer Marko Jaksic said.

The official Yugoslav news agency Tanjug identified the gunman as Dragan Kasalovic and community sources in Zubin Potok described him as a Yugoslav air force pilot who was visiting his parents in the town.

Kosovo's NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force confirmed the cafe shooting in a statement but had no further details.

Community sources said the attack was also politically motivated as the gunman and his friends supported hard-liners in the Kosovo Serb National Council who reject any communication with the province's majority ethnic Albanians.

They said groups demanding protection money in Kosovo Serb towns were targeting people who favored Serb participation in Kosovo's multi-ethnic transitional council, which is headed by United Nations administrator Bernard Kouchner.

Serbs in the southeast Kosovo town of Gracanica who tend to support cooperation with Albanians and international authorities also say they have been assaulted or intimidated by ultra-nationalist compatriots.

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