Ethnic Albanians flee boundary

PRISTINA, Jun 23, 2000 -- (AFP) More than 100 ethnic Albanians living in southern Serbia fled into Kosovo this week fearing reprisals after two elderly Serbs in their village were murdered, a spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency said Friday.

The 103 people fled their village, known in Albanian as Temovc e Vogel, near the Kosovo boundary on Wednesday, shortly after finding the bodies of the community's only two Serbs at around 3:00 p.m. (1300 GMT), said UNHCR spokeswoman Paula Ghedini.

She said that within 24 hours most of them had come crossed the boundary, terrified of reprisals by Serb security forces, who they said had been building up in the area.

Ghedini said the refugees, who are being put up in two Kosovo villages near the southeastern town Gnjilane, seemed "genuinely shocked" at the murder of the two Serbs -- one of them a man aged 96 -- and were scared to return.

She said their village is near the town of Bujanovac in southeast Serbia's Presevo Valley, where around 70,000 ethnic Albanians live.

The area has been tense in the last week after numerous explosions were reported in Bujanovac, Presevo and the nearby town of Vranje, which have left several security agents injured.

The blasts were blamed by Serb authorities on ethnic Albanian rebels based in the village of Dobrosin, several hundred metres (yards) from a five-kilometre (three-mile) -wide demilitarised zone on the Serb side of the internal boundary.

Ghedini said that 75 of the refugees were being sheltered in the village of Manjevci on the Kosovo side of the boundary, which has been abandoned by its residents who feared unrest in the area.

She said the UNHCR hoped to move the refugees further into Kosovo soon.

Original article