KFOR fire warning shots as Kosovo Serbs torch police car

PRISTINA, Jun 22, 2000 -- (AFP) Kosovo's NATO-led peacekeepers fired warning shots at a crowd of some 1,000 Serbs in the divided town of Kosovska Mitrovica Wednesday after the mob torched a UN police car, a KFOR spokesman told AFP.

The crowd stoned and set fire to the police car after the patrol tried to intervene at around midday (1000 GMT) in a dispute near three ethnic Albanian-occupied tower blocks in the Serb-dominated area of the northern town, said Colonel Henri Auffavy.

No injuries were reported in the incident, but the crowd then advanced, shouting and throwing stones, on the central bridge linking the north of the volatile town with the ethnic Albanian south, he said.

Troops of the KFOR peacekeeping force fired warning shots in the air to disperse the crowd and French gendarmes were rushed in to reinforce the bridge, Auffavy added.

French General Jean-Louis Sublet, commander of the French-led northern sector, arrived on the scene to talk to the crowd, which dispersed peacefully at around 2:00 p.m. (1200 GMT).

A UN police official said four UN vehicles were torched during the unrest.

Auffavy said the situation remained tense in the town, scene of frequent ethnic flare-ups, adding that a crowd of around 100 Serbs was still demonstrating near the courthouse in the north of the town.

He said the cause of the original dispute was not yet clear, although a UN official in Pristina said it had flared up while a truck was delivery supplies to the three ethnic Albanian tower blocks on the banks of the Ibar River.

One UN police officer, who asked to remain anonymous, said the incident may have been linked to the arrest of a Serb in the area.

The three ethnic Albanian buildings are heavily guarded by KFOR and cut off from the rest of the north, linked only to the south by a KFOR-built footbridge.

Original article