US soldiers grab weapons in Eastern Kosovo

PRISTINA, May 20, 2000 -- (Reuters) U.S. soldiers in Kosovo seized rifles, explosives, hand grenades and a rocket launcher in a search operation on Friday, the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force said.

Starting early in the morning, around 250 U.S. soldiers took part in the operation in the eastern village of Uglijare, populated mainly by ethnic Albanians, KFOR said.

Kosovo's U.S.-led eastern military sector has been the scene of several recent deadly attacks on Serbs, prompting strong and sometimes violent protests from the Serb community.

Friday's operation yielded six rifles of various types, five hand grenades, 18 pounds (eight kg) of TNT, 12 blocks of plastic explosives, a rocket launcher and a mortar tube. Five people were detained, the U.S. sector said in a statement released on Friday night.

One of the guns seized had belonged to a Serb hunter who was murdered in the area last December, a KFOR source said. The dead man's car was also recovered during the operation, he said.

NATO and the United Nations took over responsibility for Kosovo last June, after the conclusion of NATO's 78-day bombing campaign to end repression of the province's ethnic Albanian majority by driving out Serb forces.

Since then, Serbs and members of other minorities accused of collaborating with them have been the target of numerous attacks by revenge-seeking Albanians.

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