Serbian village marks anniversary of massacre

GRACKO, Jul 23, 2000 -- (AFP) Around 150 Kosovo Serbian villagers gathered here Saturday to mark the first anniversary of the massacre of 14 of their friends and relatives.

The 14 Serbs were shot dead shortly after the arrival of the KFOR peacekeeping force in the province last year in what is thought to have been a revenge attack carried out by ethnic Albanians.

The crowd, mostly dressed in black, gathered for a somber ceremony in a cemetery about half a mile (one kilometer) from the small Serbian village of Gracko, some 12 miles (20 kilometers) south of Pristina.

After an hour they walked in silence back to the village, escorted by Finnish and Norwegian KFOR troops in two armored personnel carriers.

"We are very angry," one female mourner told AFP.

"The people who were killed here were young, many of them the fathers of families," said a young man, who did not want to be named.

"Relatives have come from Serbia and Montenegro to be here today."

No representative of Kosovo's UN administration attended the ceremony, which the young man described as "private."

Since the arrival of KFOR last June hundreds of Serbs have been killed or injured in attacks by Albanian extremists seeking revenge for atrocities committed by Yugoslav forces during Kosovo's 1998-1999 civil war.

A landmine was recently found near the cemetery in Gracko, which lies immediately south of the largely Albanian town of Lipjan, a KFOR soldier said.

The night before the ceremony in the village of Suvi Do, three miles (two kilometers) north of Gracko two Albanian children attacked a 74-year-old Serb and beat him with sticks after he complained that they had allowed their cattle to graze in his field, Gilles Moreau, a UN police spokesman said.

The same evening in Rabovce, three miles south of Gracko, two ethnic Albanians attacked a Serb man with clubs, leaving him lightly injured, Moreau said.

In the east of Kosovo three Serbs were injured after unidentified gunmen fired on them, a spokesman for the multi-national KFOR peacekeeping force here said.

The attack took place late Friday in Kamenica and the wounded were taken to the US military hospital of Bondsteel in the southeast of the province. Their wounds are not thought to be life threatening, the spokesman said.

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