Police officers stage walk-out protest

PRISTINA, Jun 30, 2000 -- (AFP) Serb officers of the Kosovo Police Service (KPS) staged a walk-out in the southeastern enclave of Strpce in protest at the security situation there, UN officials said Thursday.

A team of international officers from the KPS academy in the northern town of Vucitrn was dispatched Thursday to meet the officers, a day after 14 of them handed in an open letter to Strpce administrators protesting the deteriorating security situation, UN police spokesman Larry Guyton said.

Serb sources told AFP by telephone that more than 20 KPS officers had left their posts because of what they see as the unsatisfactory attitude by international officials towards Serbs.

The international officers hoped to negotiate a settlement to the protest, Guyton said.

Strpce, an isolated Serb town in Kosovo's southern mountains, has been rocked by riots and demonstrations against the international community in the last week following the disappearance of an elderly farmer.

The body of 60-year-old Bozidar Markocevic was found about one kilometer (half a mile) outside the nearby village of Susice on Tuesday, five days after disappearing while tending to his cows.

"He died under suspicious circumstances and we are investigating the case as a possible murder," said Captain Russell Berg, spokesman for KFOR international peacekeepers in the US-led southeastern sector.

UN spokeswoman Nadia Younes said Markocevic has suffered a "massive injury on his forehead caused by some instrument", while local people told AFP Markocevic had been beaten to death.

Hundreds of Serbs rioted in Strpce last Friday in protest at what they saw as the slow response by KFOR to Markocevic's disappearance, ransacking offices of the UN mission in Kosovo and KFOR.

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