Five Serbs injured in grenade attack

PRISTINA, Jun 7, 2000 -- (Reuters) Five Serbs were injured in a grenade attack on Tuesday in the Serb-populated Kosovo town of Gracanica, the latest in a spate of violent incidents in the troubled province, NATO-led peacekeepers said.

A KFOR press officer said none of those hurt in the blast was in serious condition, and he could not confirm Serb reports that more people had been injured. The incident took place near a cultural center in Gracanica, south of the provincial capital Pristina.

A crowd of angry Serbs turned violent after the explosion, throwing stones and reportedly also beating people, he told Reuters.

There were also reports of small arms fire from members of the crowd, but no KFOR soldiers trying to control the situation were injured, he said. Another KFOR spokesman estimated the crowd at several hundred people.

A KFOR helicopter had chased down an Opel Vectra car which might have been involved in the grenade attack and people in it were detained, the press officer said, giving no further details.

More troops had arrived as reinforcements and the crowd later dispersed, he said, describing the situation as calm but tense. The town had been sealed off.

A local Serb leader, Father Sava Janjic, later told the independent Serbian news agency Beta that a total of 12 people were injured in the blast and in clashes that followed.

A KFOR press officer said he had no information about more injuries.

Father Sava, an Orthodox priest who acts as spokesman for the Kosovo Serbian National Council, said six people including a child were injured when an explosive device went off at a Gracanica market. KFOR had said two grenades were thrown near the cultural center.

He also said at least two Albanians had been beaten during the violence that erupted after the explosion. Beta said eight UN police vehicles and at least one Swedish KFOR vehicle were set ablaze.

"The Serb National Council strongly condemns the latest violence coming from organized Albanian terrorist groups who want to expel Serbs from Kosovo," Father Sava told Beta.

He said KFOR had failed to take precautionary measures. "We have repeatedly warned KFOR officials that the market in Gracanica is in a dangerous place, but KFOR failed to solve this problem," he said.

Kosovo's minority Serbs have been subjected to countless armed attacks by majority ethnic Albanians avenging years of Serbian state repression that ended when KFOR and UN administrators took control of Kosovo a year ago.

In the past two months around 20 Serbs have been killed, including eight in the last ten days in what many see as a systematic campaign of terror by some Albanians to get the Serb minority to flee.

Kosovo Serbs have been reduced to living in scattered enclaves like Gracanica and have no freedom of movement as KFOR and the UN have been unable to impose law and order and protect minorities in the wake of a vicious ethnic conflict.

Original article