Tension rising in South Serbia

BELGRADE, Jul 17, 2000 -- (Reuters) An ethnic Albanian party in southern Serbia on Sunday reported rising tension and increased police control following a series of explosions in the troubled area bordering Kosovo.

"The latest explosions have been followed by rising political tensions and aggravation of the citizens' security... mass searches of apartments and detentions of Albanians," the Party for Democratic Action said in a statement.

A series of explosions last month in the largely Albanian populated towns of Bujanovac and Presevo damaged administration buildings and injured two policemen and a security guard.

In the statement signed by its leader, who is also Mayor of Presevo, the party said police and the Yugoslav army had increased the number of joint checkpoints in the area, hindering freedom of movement.

"In this way a state of emergency is gradually being introduced in the area without being formally declared," it said.

The area of southern Serbia adjoining Kosovo 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.

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