Shot dead by the Paras: policeman who said no

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The Independent Online
AFTER ALLOWING KLA guerrillas to brandish their weapons at will in several areas of Kosovo, Nato troops shot dead a Serb police reservist in Pristina yesterday afternoon, claiming that they had come "under unprovoked fire at close range" from the Serb.

Soldiers of the 1st Battalion The Parachute Regiment, who were responsible for the killing, prevented reporters entering the block of flats on Cara Dusana Street where a witness had earlier told a reporter that the Serb was drunkenly "joy-shooting" in the air when the British soldiers shot him four times, once in the chest, after shouting at him to stop.

The death will serve only to convince the ever-decreasing number of Serb civilians in Pristina, most of whom express contempt for Nato, that K-For troops have arrived here to protect the Albanians rather than their own minority community.

Earlier in the day, KLA men shot dead a Serb policeman, two Yugoslav soldiers and a Serb civilian in the suburb of Vranjevac. But no KLA men were arrested by British forces.

Not a single Albanian will mourn the death of the police reservist, who worked for an organisation whose members performed some of the most notorious war crimes in Kosovo over the past year. But the statement from Lt-Col Nicholas Clissett, which followed the killing, was not entirely convincing.

He began by stating that a K-For patrol had come "under unprovoked fire at close range" and that when the man responsible had been "repeatedly warned" to stop, he "continued to threaten the soldiers" and that fire was returned "in self-defence".

There was a touch of Belfast-speak about all this. After initially refusing to answer questions, Lt-Col Clissett declined twice to say whether the Serb aimed his gun at the soldiers; he would say only that they "came under fire". He then said that the Serb "fired at least one round" - which sounded less threatening than the man's behaviour in his original account of the incident.

During The Parachute Regiment's tours of duty in Northern Ireland, there were countless incidents of Catholics being shot dead by soldiers followed by British military statements that the dead had "opened unprovoked fire" and were only shot dead after "repeated warnings".

Amid the anarchy that Nato troops seem powerless to end here, however, the death of a Serb policeman is not going to worry K-For, whatever the circumstances of his killing.

An hour after the man's demise, a black-painted hearse arrived at the block of apartments where his body lay, with the company name of "Exitus" written on the side with the undertaker's telephone number: 038-48722.

That is a number likely to be called many times in the coming days.