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Sunday, 17 December, 2000, 23:53 GMT
UN under fire near Serbia hotspot
Yugoslav troops
Yugoslavia has warned it may move into the buffer zone
By Nicholas Wood in Pristina

UN peacekeeping troops in Kosovo have come under fire in an unprecedented attack along the boundary with Serbia.

The patrol was blocking off a route leading to the Presevo valley, the scene of recent fighting between ethnic Albanian guerrillas and Serb forces.

The attack took place at around 1330 (1230 GMT), shortly after the combined patrol of Russian and American troops had blown up the road near the town of Gornje Karacevo.


The troops returned fire and then retreated.

It is not clear who fired the shots, but the area is used by rebel Albanian guerrillas to bring arms and men across the boundary into Serbia, where for the last 10 months they have been fighting with Serbian forces.

The destruction of the road is part of a series of measures introduced by the Nato-led peace keeping force in Kosovo, K-For, in order to clamp down on the group.

This follows increased demands from both Yugoslav officials and the Serbian Government that Nato do more to cut supplies to the group.

Elections in Serbia

The issue is particularly sensitive in the region, with Serbian parliamentary elections due at the end of this week.

The Yugoslav army has repeatedly warned it may intervene to retake ground lost to the guerrilla force.

Kostunica
The Yugoslav president has called for Nato to step up security
The group is seeking independence for three Albanian towns in Serbia and wants them joined to Kosovo.

Much of the fighting lies within a 5km (three mile) zone out of bounds to Yugoslav troops following an agreement with Nato forces at the end of the war in Kosovo last year.

The attack highlights the difficulty UN troops face in attempting to clamp down on the group.

Whereas at the end of the war in Kosovo the Nato-led force was seen as their allies, there is a risk that the guerrilla leaders may now see them as a real threat to their aims in the region.

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See also:

29 Nov 00 | Europe
Presevo's uneasy peace
17 Dec 00 | Europe
Serbs shot during Kosovo protest
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