Liberation Of Kosovo: Security - Ethnic shoot-out in city hospital

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The Independent Online
GUNFIGHTS ERUPTED in the corridors of Pristina's main hospital yesterday just as Javier Solana, Nato's Secretary-General, was telling Kosovo's Albanian and Serb communities that their only chance for peace was to work together.

British Royal Military Police are investigating a shoot-out between a Serb family and Albanians which started in an apartment block and continued in a hospital. "An Albanian family returning from Macedonia found that their apartment had been taken over by Serbs," said Cpt Vicki Wentworth, of the Royal Logistic Corps, who was called to the scene. "A fracas ensued and then a gunfight in which one Serb and one Albanian were wounded."

She said the families took each of the victims to Pristina hospital, where they met in the corridor and resumed their gunfight. A security guard and a nurse were wounded and the injured Serb died. British troops who broke up the fight recovered three 9mm pistols and two hand-grenades.

A British K-For tank is now parked outside the hospital and all visitors are meant to be searched for weapons.

Amid increasing reports of attacks and even kidnapping in the city, British troops who have served tours of duty in Northern Ireland are likening the situation to Belfast at the height of the conflict. Last night, just a few hundred yards from the Nato and United Nation offices, peacekeeping soldiers were stopping Albanians from looting Serb properties. They also recovered a number of weapons.

Speaking in the Kosovo capital, Mr Solana appealed to Serbs who are fearful of revenge attacks not to leave. He said they had to "give peace a chance". "Peace cannot be built on looking to the past and revenge. It can only be built ... by looking to the future," he said. "Peace is more than the end of violence, peace is more than just a ceasefire. It is a culture of democracy and a culture of tolerance."

But the Secretary-General's comments come amid growing concern in Pristina about Nato's ability to ensure security - particularly for Kosovo's Serb population. Yesterday morning three Serb staff members at Pristina University, one believed to be a professor of economics, were found murdered. Initial examinations by British troops who took control of the murder scene suggested they had been beaten before being shot dead. Most suspect the killings were carried out by Albanians.

Mr Solana, accompanied yesterday by Nato's Supreme Commander, General Wesley Clark, and the K-For commander, General Sir Mike Jackson, insisted that K-For was continuing to disarm both Serbs and Albanians who were found with weapons.

Nato forces in Kosovo are well aware that members of both communities are refusing to hand over their weapons, at least until they believe K- For can establish stability. As one former KLA soldier said: "I have given up some of my guns but I am keeping my side arms. Until I see what Nato is going to do I have to protect my family. What choice do I have?"