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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 April, 2004, 18:56 GMT 19:56 UK
No evidence over Kosovo drownings
Serbian church being burned in Mitrovica
Serbian churches were burned in the violence
An incident which led to the worst ethnic clashes in Kosovo for four years may have been based more on rumour than fact, the UN has concluded.

Nineteen people died when violence flared after three Albanian children drowned - reportedly after being chased into a river by Serbs last month.

But an international investigator found there was no evidence for the story.

Last week a report blamed "reckless and sensationalist" media reporting for sparking the violence.

The Kosovan press carried an interview with a 13-year old boy who said he survived the incident on 16 March, in which the children were chased into the River Ibar by two local Serbs with a dog.

No suspects found

But prosecutor Peter Tinsley said the allegation was "highly open to question".

"No suspects have been identified notwithstanding the considerable thorough efforts made to date. Neither has a dog been found..." he said.

UN police chief Neeraj Singh said a post-mortem had concluded that the deaths appeared to be straightforward drowning with no signs of force or violence.

But he did acknowledge that the investigation had been hampered by the sudden violence in the area.

Police in Mitrovica
UN troops were rushed in to quell the clashes
The claims of Serb involvement provoked angry Albanians to go on an anti-Serb rampage.

Eight Serbs and 11 of their own number were killed, and 900 people were injured.

Some 800 Serb homes and 29 Serb Orthodox churches and monasteries were burned in the unrest which followed.

Serbs responded by burning mosques in Belgrade and elsewhere.

More than 260 people have been arrested in Kosovo over the incidents on charges ranging from arson to murder.

But many Serbs have since left Kosovo, which remains part of Serbia but is being administered by the United Nations.


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