>By CARLOTTA GALLViolence erupts anew in torn Kosovo city
March 8, 2000
PRISTINA, Kosovo, March 7 -- Dozens of people were wounded in shootings and grenade attacks in the divided town of Mitrovica today, among them French peacekeepers and both Albanian and Serbian civilians.
What began as a brawl quickly escalated into a number of retaliatory attacks by the ethnic groups, catching the peacekeepers in the middle. The violence followed a whole month of serious disturbances in the town in which at least nine people died and it dashed hopes that the worst was over.
As many as 17 French soldiers were wounded today, all from shrapnel from grenades thrown in their midst, a spokesman for the peacekeepers said.
None were in serious danger, the spokesman said, and only three were hospitalized.
Up to 20 Serbian civilians and 5 Albanians were reported injured, although figures were not precise. Even spokesmen for the Kosovo peacekeeping force were giving out different numbers.
Several strong explosions were heard later in or around three apartment buildings inhabited mostly by Albanians. Whether there were further injuries was not clear.
With the violence, some 50 Albanians fled their homes in the north of the city, making their way to the Albanian district south of the River Ibar, The Associated Press reported.
An estimated 800 Albanians live among the Serbs in the north, where most of the violence of the last month has been centered. Peacekeepers had only just persuaded some 40 Albanians to return to their homes after an outburst of Serbian violence on Feb. 3 that killed eight Albanians and caused 1,000 to flee.
The city, which is patrolled by more than 1,000 troops, came under curfew at 8 o'clock tonight. Four suspects were arrested in connection with the grenade attacks, the French military spokesman, Lt. Matthieu Mabin, told Reuters.
The violence came after an argument broke out between an Albanian and a Serb, who was shot dead by a second Albanian, officials said. When angry Serbs gathered and French troops moved in to break up the confrontation, Albanians lobbed grenades into the crowd. The French soldiers do not appear to have been the target, but they bore much of the damage. Two cars began to burn as troops carried away the wounded and reinforcements arrived.
The area where most of the violence occurred is known as the Bosnian quarter and is especially volatile.
It was the scene of fierce fighting on Feb. 13 when two French soldiers and a number of Serbs were wounded and an Albanian gunman was shot dead.
The Albanians who inhabit the Bosnian quarter say they are under threat from Serbs who want to push them out of their homes.
The Serbs say the quarter is home to Albanian armed extremists who are seeking to push the Serbs out of Mitrovica altogether.
The Albanians complain that Serbs are trying to attack them in the shadow of the French troops who have command of Mitrovica.
That may be an exaggeration, but television pictures of today's violence showed Serbian civilians milling around the French soldiers, taking shelter behind armored vehicles and essentially sharing the same front line.
Albanians say those throwing the grenades are aiming at Serbs who are attacking them, but the more radical of the Albanians say they now consider the French troops to be on the same side as the Serbs.
Gen. Wesley Clark, NATO's supreme commander, canceled a visit to Mitrovica today, NATO officials said after the attacks. They did not say if the violence was the reason.