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Wednesday, 28 February, 2001, 11:53 GMT
Serbs killed in Kosovo village
K-For peacekeepers manning a checkpoint near Gniljane
Tensions are high on the Kosovo/Serbia boundary
By Nick Wood in Pristina

Police in Kosovo are investigating the killing of two elderly Serbs beaten to death in their home in the south-east of the province near the boundary with Serbia.

map of region
The incident comes amid increased tension in the region following Nato's decision on Tuesday to reduce a 5km-wide buffer zone on the Serbian side of the border, which has been used by ethnic Albanian guerrillas to launch attacks on Serbian forces.

Branko and Savita Kovic, aged 70 and 65, were found lying in a pool of blood in their home in the village of Carakovce on Tuesday evening.

According to police reports, they had been struck repeatedly with an axe around the head.

The motive for the attack is not yet clear.

UN fears

The village is situated near the town of Kamenica, until recently one of the most peaceful regions in Kosovo, where both Serbs and Albanians can be seen on the streets - a sight rare elsewhere in the province.

K-For peacekeepers are on alert after recent clashes
K-For peacekeepers are on alert after recent clashes
The killings follow a bomb attack on a bus full of Serbs further north in the province 12 days ago, in which 10 people died.

The UN administration in Kosovo fears more attacks on the province's Serbian minority could follow unless a peaceful solution to the crisis is found.

Community relations have also been put on edge by the clashes on the other side of the boundary with Serbia.

Nato's decision to shrink the buffer zone - which is out of bounds to Yugoslav forces - is unlikely to be welcomed by the ethnic Albanian guerrillas.

It would eventually give Belgrade's security forces the right to move into the zone where their movement is currently restricted.

UN officials fear that in turn could have a knock-on effect in Kosovo unless the two sides withdraw from the zone.

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See also:

27 Feb 01 | Europe
Analysis: Stirrings of war?
27 Feb 01 | Europe
Nato to reduce Kosovo buffer zone
27 Feb 01 | Americas
Powell outlines Nato vision
23 Feb 01 | Europe
Tension mounts in Presevo valley
15 Feb 01 | Europe
Nato welcomes Serbian peace plans
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