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Thursday, 29 August, 2002, 23:43 GMT 00:43 UK
Gunmen attack Kosovo peacekeepers
Serb refugees
Some 200,000 Serbs and non-Albanians fled Kosovo in 1999
Nato-led peacekeepers and UN police in Kosovo have come under fire from gunmen, in what is seen as the most serious attack since the UN mission arrived in the Yugoslav province in 1999.

The trouble started when a group of Serbian farmers, and UN police officers guarding them, came under fire in the village of Gorazdevac, about 90 kilometres west of the province's capital, Pristina.

No one was hurt, but the situation was brought under control only after reinforcements were called in and following a gunbattle which lasted more than two hours.

One ethnic Albanian man was arrested at the scene, and a search is continuing for others suspected of involvement.

The motive for the shooting remains unclear.

But correspondents say anti-UN and anti-Serbian sentiment has recently increased in the province following the arrests by UN police of several former members of the ethnic-Albanian guerrilla group, the Kosovo Liberation Army.

Fierce gunbattle

UN police said the incident happened at about 1400 local time.

"A group of Serb farmers working the field and UN policemen guarding them nearby came under fire from several attackers," Andrea Angeli, spokesman for the UN mission said.

He said that at their request Italian troops from the Nato-led peacekeeping troops, Kfor, were sent to assist the police. But they too came under fire.

The gunmen were forced to flee only after a team of special troops arrived by helicopter.

Several UN vehicles were hit by bullets during the exchange of fire.

Serb fears

Kfor and UN have maintained order in Kosovo since Nato bombing drove the Yugoslav Army out in 1999 to end what Nato said was Belgrade's repression of ethnic Albanians.

Since then there have been a number of attacks on the minority Serb population, who live in enclaves protected by international peacekeepers.

But correspondents say the attack on Serb farmers was the first of its kind in well over a year.

It came as the UN was stepping up its efforts to repatriate the Serbian minority after more about 200,000 of them left the province in fear of revenge attacks by ethnic Albanians.

News and analysis from Kosovo following November's election


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