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1998: Thousands flee fighting in Kosovo

VIDEO : Villages shelled in dawn attacks

Serbian forces have renewed their assault against rebel fighters in Kosovo.

Thousands of civilians have been forced to flee their homes after Serbian police, soldiers and armed civilians flooded into the north of the province.

The region came under prolonged bombardment by tanks and heavy machine guns before Serbian troops moved in, burning the villages and hamlets they passed through.

Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic launched a military operation to put down rebellion in Kosovo in February, but this is the first time his forces have entered the guerrilla stronghold around Drenica.

Trenches

The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) is fighting for the mainly Albanian population of the province and is seeking greater freedom from Serbia.

The KLA has built up a network of trenches and bunkers in the area, but is only lightly armed and it could do little under the sustained attack but assist the new refugees of this conflict.

The United Nations Security Council has repeatedly condemned President Milosevic's action in Kosovo and today passed a resolution which issues an ultimatum to the Serbian Government.

The ruling demands Belgrade end the fighting and enter talks with separatist groups on the future of the province or face military intervention from the international community.

In Context
President Milosevic refused to pull out of Kosovo and in March 1999 Nato began bombing Serbian military targets.

British troops who entered the province after Serb withdrawal two months later uncovered evidence of mass killings and torture.

President Milosevic lost power in September 2000. He was arrested in April 2001 and was put on trial by a Hague war crimes tribunal. He died in custody in March 2006.

Several rounds of UN-mediated talks on Kosovo have been held, without any significant breakthrough. The UN wants to find a solution for Kosovo's disputed status by the end of 2006.

The state union of Serbia and Montenegro is all that remains of the federation of six republics that made up former Yugoslavia - but in a referendum on 21 May 2006, Montenegro narrowly voted for independence from Serbia.


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