Seven die as Kosovo is torn by violence

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The Independent Online
PRISTINA (AP) - SERBIAN police swept through ethnic Albanian villages in the troubled province of Kosovo yesterday, after clashes at the weekend left at least seven people dead.

Ibrahim Rugova, the leader of the Kosovo Albanians who want to secede from Serbia, appealed to the United States and the European Union to put pressure on Belgrade to stop police violence.

Mr Rugova said "urgent measures" were needed to prevent the Serb attacks which are aimed at "intimidating and causing panic" among the ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo.

At least two Serb policemen were killed and another two wounded on Saturday, when their patrol was ambushed near the village of Glogovac, 12 miles west of province's capital, Pristina. In a subsequent action, the Serbian police said they had killed five Albanian "terrorists." The incidents represented the worst day of violence since the Kosovo Liberation Army surfaced in 1996. This clandestine ethnic Albanian militant group has claimed responsibility for several terrorist attacks that have left more than 30 people dead.

Both Serb and ethnic Albanian sources claim the death toll from the weekend clashes may have been much higher, after Serb police retaliated with helicopters and armored vehicles.

Ethnic Albanian sources said gunfire and explosions could still be heard yesterday around Glogovac and in nearby Srbica, the centre of ethnic Albanian disaffection in Kosovo.

The region is reportedly surrounded by Serb police forces conducting house-to-house searches. Tension has been high in Kosovo since Serbia revoked the province's autonomy and introduced virtual martial law in 1989.