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Saturday, March 7, 1998 Published at 16:47 GMT

World: Europe

UN urged to stop Kosovo bloodshed

International concern is mounting about fierce fighting in the Serbian province of Kosovo where Serb troops and police are battling against Albanian separatists.

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Serb authorities say they have struck at the heart of the separatist Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and killed its leader, Adem Jashari.

Officials reported that 20 ethnic Albanians had been killed along with two policemen while 30 separatists had been taken prisoner. But the exact casualty figure is not known.

Serbian TV showed pictures of the fighters' compound in Mr Jashari's home village of Prekaz, littered with bodies.

Albania's ambassador to the UN has requested an emergency meeting of the Security Council to discuss possible international action to avoid further bloodshed - and the threat of a new Balkan War.

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Kosovo is a Serbian province, situated between Serbia and Albania, which lost its autonomous status in the break-up of Yugoslavia a decade ago; 90% of the population consists of ethnic Albanians.

Their opposition to Serb rule threatens to inflame passions beyond the province's borders. There have been expressions of sympathy from Albania itself and ethnic Albanians in neighbouring Macedonia.

The BBC's Paul Wood, in an exclusive report from inside Kosovo, witnessed homes of suspected KLA members being burned or bulldozed by armoured vehicles. It was both a punishment and a warning to the rest of the village.

Serbs say they are fighting terrorism but Paul Wood says there is no need for a military operation on this scale.

Many families are fleeing, spending nights in the hills, and the main Albanian political party has accused Serbs of carrying out a new campaign of ethnic cleansing.

"We have to run away," said a woman villager. "It's war here. People are being killed, even children. And nobody does anything."

Some in Kosovo believe Serb forces may be regrouping to plan another offensive.

Ethnic Albanians say Serbs have created heroes among Albanians and have failed to destroy the KLA.

Others believe the KLA is an unsophisticated organisation, and that until now it did not have the military equipment to launch a serious attack against Serb forces.

But the actions of the last two days are likely to provide more recruits as the Albanians increasingly believe the only future for Kosovo is complete independence.

The KLA says its members living abroad are returning to Kosovo to join the struggle against the Serbs.

Serbs say their security operation is over, but for Albanians in the region, terror continues.


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