Kosovo Crisis: Monitor stays while Serbs attack villages

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The Independent Online
A DEFIANT William Walker, head of the International Monitoring Mission in Kosovo, returned to his headquarters yesterday apparently intent on ignoring a Yugoslav order to leave the country later today.

"It's good to be back," Mr Walker declared as he arrived in the regional capital, Pristina. He had earlier been advised by the chairman of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Knut Vollebaek, that it would be wrong to give in to the Yugoslavs "outrageous provocation".

But as Mr Walker strode into his office, ethnic Albanian refugees were fleeing the latest outbreak of fighting. Serbian special police units clashed with the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army near the town of Mitrovica.

Reporters saw the bodies of two ethnic Albanians. One was covered with ammunition belts, and a machine gun lay by his side. The other was carrying a pistol.

Rebels said they opened fire after Serb forces shelled the nearby village of Vraganica. Dozens of frightened ethnic Albanian civilians fled the fighting aboard horse-drawn carts as the two sides exchanged semi-automatic and machine gun fire. The Serb media also reported that a Serb mother and her two children were injured before dawn yesterday when a mortar exploded on their home in a village near Sipolje. One child, a 14-year- old girl, was seriously wounded.

Refugees were last night struggling through knee deep winter mud across the hillside in central Kosovo. One woman carried a young child on her shoulders. As KLA fighters went the other way many of the refugees made victory signs.

"The police came early in the morning," one distraught woman said. "We didn't have time to get clothes for children. We just ran." Everywhere there was hope that NATO would intervene, along with disappointment about the international community's actions so far.

"We expected to have to suffer for a free Kosovo," said one KLA fighter, "but we did not expect to be betrayed by the West."

The chief U.N. war crimes prosecutor, Louise Arbour, left neighbouring Macedonia yesterday for The Hague, Netherlands, after having been refused permission twice in two days to enter Yugoslavia.