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Fighting Subsides In Restive Kosovo

May 6, 1998

Article from: The Washington Post
Article date: May 6, 1998
Author: Guy Dinmore

A three-day gunfight between ethnic Albanian rebels and Serbian police subsided today, leaving this village abandoned and littered with the wreckage of war. Police showed reporters the battered remains of a troop carrier hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. Four policemen inside had been wounded and taken 45 miles to a hospital in Pristina, the capital of Serbia’s southern province of Kosovo.

Ethnic Albanians make up 90 percent of the population in the province. Most ethnic Albanians want independence from Serbia, the largest of two republics remaining in Yugoslavia.

About 150 people have been killed in Kosovo since February in clashes between Albanian separatists and Serbian security forces.

Houses near where police had set up a checkpoint were pockmarked with bullet holes, and spent cartridges from Albanian-made weapons lay on the ground. “We were attacked by about 50 terrorists,” said one officer using the term Serbians apply to ethnic Albanians. His hand was bandaged from a shrapnel wound.

Reports by state-controlled media that 10 rebels had been killed in three days of fighting appeared to be exaggerated. Police in Ponosevac could not confirm they had killed anyone. Ponosevac is less than five miles from the Albanian border in the rugged, mountainous region where Serbian forces are attempting to stem the smuggling of arms to the Kosovo Liberation Army, a separatist guerrilla group.

All the inhabitants of the village, mostly ethnic Albanians and Gypsies, fled their homes. Albanian officials said two villagers were killed in the fighting and a mother and her daughter were wounded.

“It is simple. There will be war,” said one plainclothes officer carrying a submachine gun at a police roadblock beyond the nearby town of Dakovica.

The Reuters news service reported from Tirana, the Albanian capital: The Albanian Foreign Ministry today accused the Yugoslav government of carrying out “ethnic cleansing” in Kosovo.

“Even in the past few days Serbian police forces backed by the army and, what is worse, by radical ultranationalist paramilitary troops, are continuing their military operations of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo,” the Foreign Ministry statement said. “The violence by police and the military is accompanied by massive bombings and destruction of the population centers, applying in Kosovo the Serbian scorched-earth strategy.”

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