UN says Kosovo Serbs are targeted

Monday February 28

PRISTINA (Reuters) - The United Nations warned on Monday of growing violence against Kosovo Serbs, including the murder of a physician and an anti-tank mine that destroyed a Serb bus.

A Serb community leader in the north of the troubled province accused Albanian militants of trying to provoke incidents between Serbs and the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force in Kosovo, while KFOR said it was keeping a sharp eye on the Serbian border, where diplomats say there has been a buildup of troops.

"Over the weekend, UNMIK police reported an increased level of violence against Serbs around Kosovo," said Susan Manuel, a spokeswoman for the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).

Serb gynecologist Josef Vasic was shot dead Saturday in the eastern town of Gnjilane.

A Serb bus struck an anti-tank mine in the Serbian side of the tense northern city of Kosovska Mitrovica early Monday, wrecking the rear of the bus and leaving a crater in the main road to northern Kosovo.

French forces who control the area said only the driver and a ticket collector were aboard and neither was injured, but they said the mine had been deliberately set to cause damage on a road used not only by Serbs but also by KFOR.

Manuel said other less serious incidents, which caused a few minor injuries, included the use of hand grenades and other explosive devices in Gnjilane, Pecs, Mitrovica and other towns still occupied by Serbs.

The attacks come at a time when the United Nations and KFOR are both trying to convince Serbs to stay in the ethnic- Albanian dominated province and to agree a plan to end the ethnic division of the flashpoint northern mining city of Mitrovica.

But Oliver Ivanovic, a leader of the Serbian National Council in Mitrovica, said the mine explosion showed that Albanian militants were trying to stir up trouble.

"They didn't succeed in causing trouble between Albanians and Serbs so now they are trying to provoke incidents between Serbs and KFOR," he said. "I know that KFOR was the target and this was not done accidentally."

Chief KFOR spokesman Henning Philipp said NATO forces in Kosovo were watching closely what diplomats have said is a buildup of Serbian troops along the border.

"What we are doing is monitoring the boundary...and controlling it," Philipp said.

Meanwhile, thousands of ethnic Albanians attended a ceremony in the Kosovo village of Likosane to mark the second anniversary of the first major clash between Serb police and guerrillas of the Kosovo Liberation Army.

Original article