British troops foil Serb plot to bomb targets in Kosovo

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The Independent Online

British Nato troops announced last night that they had foiled a Serb military plot to mount guerrilla attacks on targets inside Kosovo, in the run-up to Yugoslav elections due to be held this weekend.

British Nato troops announced last night that they had foiled a Serb military plot to mount guerrilla attacks on targets inside Kosovo, in the run-up to Yugoslav elections due to be held this weekend.

Acting on intelligence reports, the British forces cordoned off the market town of Gracanica, home to one of Kosovo's largest Serb communities. In an operation lasting several hours, they uncovered a cache of weapons and explosives, and arrested six men; three were later released.

Bernard Kouchner, the United Nations administrator for the Serbian province, said the foiled operation was "an obvious attempt to destabilise Kosovo" by Slobodan Milosevic's government. He said that two of the detainees were believed to be serving or former members of the Yugoslav forces based in the south-eastern Serbian town of Nis.

The senior British commander in Kosovo, Brigadier Rob Fry of the Royal Marines, said: "The evidence is compelling to link them to the Yugoslav Army Special Forces." Brigadier Fry would not specify any targets for the Serb team, but said that an investigation involving UN police was ongoing.

More than 300 British and Swedish troops were involved in the night-time swoop on Gracanica, five miles south-west of the regional capital, Pristina, after reports that members of the Serb Special Forces had infiltrated Kosovo from Nis.

Nato's senior commander in Kosovo, the Spanish General Juan Ortuno, announced increased security measures yesterday for Kosovo in the run-up to the elections to be held there on Sunday as well as in the rest of Yugoslavia. "The purpose of this equipment and individuals was to create fear and intimidate the people of Kosovo," the general said.

An extra 650 British troops are arriving in Kosovo this week as part of a 2,500-strong Nato reinforcement package for the election period. President Milosevic is expected to try to rig the voting in his favour, using the 105,000-strong Kosovo Serb electorate in a chaotic ballot which would prove next to impossible to count because no election monitors are allowed to be present.

Despite being administered and run by Nato and the UN, Kosovo remains part of Yugoslavia. It is holding its own municipal elections in October. International officials fear that President Milosevic is trying to use Sunday's elections as a way of drawing resources away from the Kosovo polls.

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