London Times
British troops are called to reinforce French in Kosovo


February 11 2000

British and other Nato troops are reinforcing French units in Kosovo, after allegations that the French failed to carry out their peacekeeping duty during violent clashes in Kosovska Mitrovica last week.

The French troops have faced growing opposition, particularly from Albanian families who live in the northern section of the town, which is controlled by the Serbs. They have accused the French of failing to protect them from Serb violence.

Yesterday the town was taken by surprise when 130 soldiers from the 2nd Battalion The Royal Green Jackets arrived in 15 Warrior armoured infantry vehicles and began patrolling the area.

The French troops, who have been trying to keep the Albanians and Serbs apart, came under fierce attack last week on the bridge over the River Ibar, which divides the town. Sixteen French soldiers were injured in the clashes.

Earlier two Serbs were killed in a rocket attack on a bus and eight Albanians died in revenge attacks.

According to witnesses, including UN police who attempted to prevent the Serb rioters attacking the Albanians, the French infantry battalion responsible for security in the area utterly failed in its duty.

In particular, it is alleged that the French refused to send armoured reinforcements to help a trapped contingent of UN police and stood by in their positions as Albanians were killed and injured. In addition, the French are accused of refusing to treat wounded Albanians at their military hospital.

General Klaus Reinhardt, commander of Nato's Kosovo Force (Kfor), denied that the British troops had been sent to Mitrovica because the French had failed to keep the peace. "I have no doubt that they did their best in very difficult circumstances," he said of the clashes last week.