UN police resume patrols in Kosovo flashpoint

KOSOVSKA MITROVICA, Jul 21, 2000 -- (Reuters) UN police said on Thursday they had resumed patrols in the Kosovo flashpoint city of Mitrovica, suspended after Serbs attacked and threatened officers earlier this week.

Police had restarted vehicle patrols but were still not carrying out duties on foot in the ethnically divided city, a spokesman for the province's U.N.-led administration said.

The multinational police force was targeted by Serbs after the arrest on Monday evening of a Serb man accused of assaulting an ethnic Albanian last month.

The man, identified by local people as a medical student in his 20s, is a member of a self-styled Serb security force known as the "bridge-watchers" who monitor people crossing from the south to the Serb-dominated north of the city.

Serbs insist the group is unarmed and exists purely to guard against attacks by ethnic Albanians. Albanians have repeatedly accused the bridge-watchers of being involved in violence.

A local court was scheduled to meet later on Thursday to decide whether to release the suspect.

Police and peacekeepers said the night in Mitrovica itself had passed without major incident.

But a group of about 20 Serbs had assaulted a UN officer and attempted to overturn his vehicle when he tried to investigate a rocket-propelled grenade attack on a Serb home in a village about 10 km (six miles) south of the city, police said.

Serbs targeted the homes of UN police officers in northern Mitrovica in several attacks on Tuesday night.

Two guns and a radio stolen from the apartment of Zimbabwean officers have been recovered and returned to the UN by Oliver Ivanovic, the leader of the Serb community in northern Mitrovica, a UN official said.

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