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The BBC's Paul Anderson
"Another message of violent defiance"
 real 56k

Sunday, 18 February, 2001, 15:59 GMT
Landmines kill three Serb officers
Serb police in southern Serbia
Serb police frequently clash with Albanian rebels in the area
Three Serbian policemen have died after their vehicle hit two anti-tank mines in the village of Lucane in the buffer zone separating Kosovo from southern Serbia.

Interior Minister, Dusan Mihajlovic, said the officers had been delivering food for police deployed in the area when they hit the mines at around 0930 (0830 GMT). There was no fighting at the time of the explosion, he said.

map
The blasts left two identical craters about 1.5m deep and completely destroyed the vehicle on the road to Bujanovac.

The incident came as Serbia observed a day of national mourning for at least seven Serbs killed in Friday's bomb attack on a bus in Kosovo.

The BBC's Paul Anderson in Kosovo, says both incidents have fuelled a terror in the area's dwindling Serb community that the Albanians have launched a new campaign to drive them out.

Rebel incursions

EU observer Alex McKenzie Smith who went to the scene, said it was "too early to have any ideas about who put the mines there, other than the obvious conclusions."

A local defence ministry official blamed ethnic Albanians guerrillas for the incident, describing it as a monstrous act.

The 5km buffer zone has been the scene of clashes with ethnic Albanian rebels over the past year, and at least 11 police officers are believed to have died since fighting began in southern Serbia.

The Serbs accuse international peacekeepers of failing to protect them.

They are demanding changes to the agreement reached with Nato covering the buffer zone, which bans them from deploying heavy equipment.

According to the independent Beta news agency, Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica will hold an emergency meeting with senior ministers on Sunday to analyse the latest events.

Our correspondent says the pressure will now be on Nato and the United Nations to change the line of the buffer zone to allow Serb forces to enter it and deal with the rebels.

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See also:

17 Feb 01 | Europe
Serbs mourn bomb victims
16 Feb 01 | Europe
Analysis: Serbs under threat
06 Feb 01 | Europe
Serbia offers talks with rebels
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