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Thursday, June 24, 1999 Published at 14:45 GMT 15:45 UK

World: Europe

Troops seize war crimes suspect

The situation on the ground remains volatile

K-For troops have made their first war crimes arrest in Kosovo.

On Wednesday night, British soldiers detained a man accused of involvement in the massacre of 43 Albanians in the village of Slovinia.

Kosovo: Special Report
UK military investigators are currently searching an area around the village for evidence.

Eyewitnesses claim that the 43 men were murdered in April and that a number of their Serbian neighbours had been involved.

Details of the arrest have been forwarded to the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague.

It is up to prosecutors to determine if the alleged massacre constitutes a war crime.

News of the arrest came as Nato's Supreme Commander in Europe, Wesley Clark, called on K-For to speed up its deployment in Kosovo.

The BBC's Jim Fish: "Isolated incidents continue"
He was speaking in Kosovo as the bodies of three Serbs were reported to have been found at Pristina's university.

Reports said they appeared to have been stabbed or battered to death.

Troops in Pristina have also beaten off a group of Albanians who tried to take over the radio station.

Gen Clark is in the province with Nato's Secretary-General, Javier Solana, to assess the scale of the task facing the peacekeeping troops.

As the visit continued, the Yugoslav Parliament met to ratify the decision by the government to lift the state of war, which was declared in response to Nato's bombing campaign.

But opposition groups have already expressed concern that legislation will be retained restricting the media and political freedoms.

Violence continues

Gen Clark said the deployment of Nato's K-For force was "very much on track".

But troops that have been committed need to come "as quickly as possible", he said.

[ image: US Marines run for cover during the incident at Zegra]
US Marines run for cover during the incident at Zegra
Only hours before Mr Solana and Gen Clark arrived in Kosovo, K-For troops were involved in two violent clashes with local Serbs.

US marines manning a checkpoint at Zegra shot dead one person and wounded two others.

The men fired into the air and then pointed their guns at the Marines, at which point they were gunned down.

All three were in civilian clothes, and it is thought they were Serbs, although there was no confirmation. There were no American casualties.

In Mitrovica, where Serbs have taken control of half the town, they opened fire on a French patrol which had gone to assist Kosovo Albanians being evicted from their homes.

Three Serb civilians were later arrested, but no French troops were injured.

(Click here to see a map showing refugee movements)

However, conditions on the ground are improving, the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, has said.

It said three of the main cities in Kosovo - Pristina, Prizren, and Urosevac - were now safe for ethnic Albanians returning there.

The war in Kosovo
The agency's envoy to the Balkans, Dennis McNamara, said the UNHCR would, in the coming days, organise transport to those cities from refugee camps outside Kosovo.

More than 200,000 ethnic Albanians have returned home since the end of the conflict, ignoring warnings about landmines, booby traps and unexploded weapons in the province.

Ordnance left over from the conflict has already claimed the lives of two British soldiers, along with two members of the KLA.

Tough challenge

The toughest challenge for K-For is to prevent the Kosovo Albanians taking revenge on their Serb neighbours, who are already fleeing the province.

[ image: Javier Solana: Seeing for himself the damage wreaked in Kosovo]
Javier Solana: Seeing for himself the damage wreaked in Kosovo
Gen Clark said mounting evidence of atrocities by Serbian forces provided vindication for the alliance's air war.

However, Mr Solana has urged ordinary Serbs to stay and rebuild Kosovo.

For its part, the International Committee of the Red Cross has asked the Yugoslav authorities for access to a number of Kosovo Albanian political prisoners being held in Serbia.

The ICRC believed the Serbs took 2,000 to 3,000 prisoners with them as they withdrew.

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