Serbian farmer vanished near ethnically mixed town

PRISTINA, Jul 30, 2000 -- (AFP) Peacekeepers are searching for an elderly Serbian farmer who disappeared while working in fields in southwestern Kosovo, a spokesman for the KFOR multinational force said Saturday.

The man went missing Friday between 9:30 p.m. (1930 GMT) and 10:00 p.m. near the ethnically mixed Kosovo town of Orahovac, said German Lieutenant Colonel Peter Wosniak.

A search was immediately launched, and KFOR helicopters were used to scan the area, but KFOR peacekeepers found no trace of the missing man.

According to the Yugoslav state news agency Tanjug, the man is 75-year-old Trifun Velikic, whose family reported to KFOR he had been kidnapped by ethnic Albanian extremists.

In June when a 60-year-old shepherd was kidnapped from near the Serbian-majority town of Strpce, locals protesting the failure of KFOR to quickly find him rioted and ransacked a UN administrative building.

The shepherd was later found brutally murdered.

Serbs have often found themselves the targets of extremists since the end of Kosovo's 1998-1999 civil war in June last year and the arrival of KFOR peacekeepers.

On Saturday, KFOR commander General Juan Ortuno called on all the peoples of Kosovo to live together in peace.

"We, NATO, did not enter Kosovo to endorse ethnic violence and the continued intimidation of ethnic minorities," he said.

"KFOR will do everything necessary to protect ethnic minorities in Kosovo. But we can only do so much. The future is in the hands of the people of Kosovo. They must show they are willing and able to live together."

No incidents had been reported late Saturday in Orahovac following the alleged kidnapping, Wosniak said.

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