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Monday, April 13, 1998 Published at 09:34 GMT 10:34 UK

World: Europe

British aid convoy heads for home
image: [ British voluntary workers dispense toys to Albanian children ]
British voluntary workers dispense toys to Albanian children

Operation Angel, a British convoy which successfully delivered medical supplies to villages in the Serbian province of Kosovo, is attempting to return home.

Relief workers in the convoy reported that their departure from the Kosovo capital Pristina was hampered by a demonstration.

They say their only route out of the region takes them through its most dangerous areas, and they are travelling without police escort.

[ image: Unloading the Operation Angel trucks]
Unloading the Operation Angel trucks
The charity operation reached areas surrounding Drenica in the Serbian province of Kosovo on Wednesday.

British volunteers managed to deliver urgently-needed paediatric and medical supplies to about 100 children there, reporting that the Kosovo Liberation Army, the KLA, watched constantly from the hills.

Sally Becker interviewed about the operation in BBC's Today programme (1'55")
The relief workers found that one of the villages they visited had been shelled all day on Monday, and the volunteers experienced some shelling themselves before rejoining the rest of the convoy in Pristina.

The charity says there has been no assistance to villages around Drenica - among the worst affected by fighting between Serbian forces and ethnic Albanians - since the troubles started.

[ image: Kosovan Albanians in the region are becoming steadily worse off]
Kosovan Albanians in the region are becoming steadily worse off
The local Albanian aid workers have found it difficult to get to get to many villages because of police roadblocks, and Serb snipers, and also the guerrillas have been reluctant to allow foreigners in the area for fear of giving away their positions.

The volunteers returned safely from Drenica area to Pristina on Wednesday evening. The head of the Operation Angel, Sally Becker, who arranged similar convoys during the Bosnian war, says they have also been delivering aid to orphanages and hospitals in Kosovo's provincial capital Pristina.

The area surrounding Drenica lies north-west from Pristina. The conflict in the area flared up last month in a police operation against Albanian leaders in which more than 80 people were killed, including many women and children.

Over the past few weeks thousands of villagers who fled during the operation have returned to their homes. But Albanian human rights officials say that many areas are practically under siege and about 5,000 people are still refugees, mostly staying with relatives and friends.

Aid workers from Operation Angel arrived in Kosovo's provincial capital, Pristina, last weekend with about about £60,000 of aid, bought with donations from Britain.

Operation Angel is working with a local charity set up by Mother Teresa, who was an Albanian nun.

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