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Last Updated: Saturday, 20 March, 2004, 03:58 GMT
UK soldiers ready for Mitrovica
British troops
British troops are preparing to head for the divided town of Mitrovica
The bulk of 750 extra UK troops being sent to Kosovo are preparing to head to the troubled town of Mitrovica.

Most of the group landed in the Kosovan capital of Pristina on Friday and are set to join Nato-led K-For peacekeepers in Mitrovica in the next three days.

The Nato request for more troops came amid continuing ethnic violence in the former Yugoslav province, which has left at least 28 people dead.

A further 600 people have been wounded in the worst unrest for five years.

'Deadly force'

A score of military transports landed in Kosovo overnight on Friday with troops and equipment to boost the 17,000-strong KFOR force.

NATO is putting on a show of force in a bid to stop a slide into anarchy
Jonny Dymond
BBC correspondent
Soldiers from the 1st Battalion Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire regiment were the first of Britain's reinforcements to touch down in Pristina.

France, Germany and other NATO countries are also sending troops with orders to use deadly force if fired on.

BBC correspondent Jonny Dymond, speaking from Kosovo, said NATO is putting on a show of force in a bid to stop a slide into anarchy.

UN staff were pulled out of the flashpoint town of Mitrovica on Thursday after clashes between Serbs and Albanians began and mobs set light to Serbian Orthodox churches and homes.

The violence was sparked by the deaths of two Albanian children, blamed on members of the province's small ethnic Serbian community.

'Ethnic cleansing'

The commander of NATO forces in southern Europe, Gregory Johnson, has said the violence "essentially amounts to ethnic cleansing".

Brigadier Martin Vine said the British troops' role would be "to suppress continued violence and reassure the population".

Germany - 22,500
Northern Ireland - 13,500
Iraq - 8,800
Cyprus - 3,200
Kuwait & Gulf countries - 1,385
Falkland Islands - 1,240
Bosnia and Croatia - 1,130
Kosovo - 750
Gibraltar - 420
Afghanistan - 350
Other UN missions - 450
Sierra Leone - 100
Source: Ministry of Defence

The decision to send extra troops was made by the MoD's Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir Michael Walker who received the request from Nato's Supreme Allied Commander Europe.

The province is under UN administration and although it is still officially part of Serbia and Montenegro, in reality Belgrade has no power there.

The upsurge in violence is the worst since the Nato-led bombing campaign against the former republic of Yugoslavia in 1999.

The BBC's Jonny Dymond
"Nato was caught out by the violence"

Defence secretary Geoff Hoon
"We anticipate this being a relatively short deployment"

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