Detentions of ethnic Albanians in Serbia

VRANJE, Jul 17, 2000 -- (AFP) Serbian police are continuing to detain ethnic Albanians in the southern Serbian communities of Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja near the Kosovo border, a local ethnic Albanian party charged Sunday.

"In recent days, after a series of explosions" in the area, "numerous Albanians were detained while their homes were searched, thus raising political tensions," said a statement from the Party for Democratic Action (PPD), which represents ethnic Albanians in the region.

Some 70,000 Albanians live in the three communities, after thousands of them fled the area during and after the 1999 NATO bombing campaign on Yugoslavia.

The police and the army have multiplied their checkpoints in the region, the party said, describing the moves as a "progressive imposition of the state of emergency."

The PDD accused the Serbian authorities of trying to create a "feeling of insecurity" among the Albanians, "in a bid to speed up their exodus" from the area.

The Albanians have been "deprived of basic rights," while the economic development of the region "is endangered" by Belgrade's moves, the statement said.

Local Serbian authorities said Thursday that mortar shells had been fired at a police checkpoint in Konculj, a village in the so-called security zone, established after NATO-led peacekeepers entered Kosovo in June 1999.

Only Serb police can patrol the area, often called the "demilitarized zone".

Konculj is situated near the village Dobrosin, a stronghold of an ethnic Albanian armed separatist group named "The Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac" (UCPMB).

Violence between Albanian separatists and police has already left several people dead and dozens wounded.

Original article