CEOL
Mortars fired at Serb police checkpoint

VRANJE, Jul 11, 2000 -- (Reuters) Mortars were fired from Kosovo at a Serbian police checkpoint just outside the province on Saturday, authorities in Serbia said on Monday.

Slavoljub Mihajlovic, an investigating judge in the southern town of Vranje, told reporters three mortar bombs were fired but only one exploded, causing damage to the police and customs checkpoint at the village of Konculj and starting a small fire.

Gunshots were then fired, after which Serbian police returned fire and forced the assailants to retreat, he said. There were no casualties.

Konculj is in a demilitarized buffer zone between territory controlled by Yugoslav forces and Kosovo. Kosovo has been occupied by NATO-led troops since June last year after NATO bombing forced Serb forces to withdraw from the province, which is mainly inhabited by ethnic Albanians.

The area of southern Serbia adjoining Kosovo also has a large ethnic Albanian population and has suffered increased ethnic violence, which Yugoslav authorities blame on a spillover of "Albanian terrorism" from Kosovo.

An ethnic Albanian armed group calling itself the Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac Liberation Army, named after three municipalities in the area, is believed to have been involved in several clashes with Serbian police in the past year. The region was rocked by several bombs one day last month.

The independent Belgrade news agency Beta said 46 incidents had been registered along the border with Kosovo, in which 15 people were killed, more than 20 wounded and three went missing.



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