Burnt-out Serbs driven into exodus from Kosovo

Five years of efforts at reconciliation between Albanians and Serbs following the savageries of their internecine war have been destroyed in three days of murderous violence here in Kosovo.

Five years of efforts at reconciliation between Albanians and Serbs following the savageries of their internecine war have been destroyed in three days of murderous violence here in Kosovo.

By yesterday morning, as Nato reinforcements poured in, the Serbian population had been "cleansed" from their enclaves in the former Yugoslav province, and were huddled into refugee camps in military barracks. Also yesterday came signs of a concerted Serbian backlash within Kosovo, with reports of Albanian homes being burnt in the north by mobs reinforced by contingents from across the border, many of whom apparently boasted of destroying mosques in Serbia.

Evidence of further slippage towards lawlessness came with attacks on multinational peacekeepers from both sides. The majority of them seemed to come from Albanians who, not so long ago, were lauding Nato as their liberators from Slobodan Milosevic's Belgrade regime. Michael McClellan, of the US office in Pristina, said: "American troops were attacked by Albanians - this has never been heard of before."

The death toll so far is 31, with more than 600 reported injured, 100 of these being policemen and 60 of them members of the international Kosovo Force (KFor). Around 130 properties were ransacked, and 20 churches went up in flames. Serbian leader Vojislav Kostunica, who will soon face internal elections that will have a fiercely nationalist tinge, expressed his disquiet at the failure to protect Kosovo's 100,000 remaining Serbs.

The full extent of the Serbian internal exodus is now clear. They have either fled, or been evacuated from towns such as Obelic, Staro Gradsko and Svinjare. At Svinjare, Albanian mobs burnt the empty homes and drove cattle and pigs into the flames. Nuns at an isolated monastery in Devic, in the north, were flown out by Nato helicopters as a mob was closing in.

At Lipljan, peacekeepers were overseeing the evacuation of 200 children and elderly people. The rest of the population had taken refuge in a Finnish KFor base, as the troops drove back Albanian youths attempting to attack the local church. The handful of Serbs who had stayed behind, in towns like Caglavica and Gnjilane, were heavily outnumbered by Nato soldiers guarding them.

In Mitrovica, for long a venomous cockpit of ethnic strife, and the town where the present round of troubles started, most of the Serbs had stayed. A series of explosions shook the Albanian quarter of the Serbian-dominated northern bank of the River Ebur. Oliver Ivanovic, a local Serbian leader, claimed the blasts had come from a block of flats from which Albanians had had been shooting from the balconies. "I hope that KFor move them out of here today. Otherwise I fear the Serbs will do that. The latest events show that the project of a united Kosovo has definitely failed," he said.

The UN has now pulled out its staff from the southern, Albanian, area of the town, but a heavy KFor presence appeared to have stopped the violence yesterday. Two check- points into the town, manned by US and French troops with armoured cars, stopped and searched vehicles for weapons, and the bridge over the Ebur, a traditional clashing point between the communities, was sealed off.

A French corporal, strapped into body armour, taking off his sunglasses to wipe his red-rimmed eyes, said: "We got shot at, and we went into a flat and shot dead the sniper. There has been a lot of violence here. They just want to kill each other. It's the Balkans, and they are all mad."

Half a mile away, at the Hotel Adriatik, local Albanians were vehemently protesting that they were neither mad or bad. Their heated views reflected not only the endemic antipathy towards the Serbs, but also a resentment that has grown over the last two years against UNMik, the United Nations Mission in Kosovo.

The Albanians say the Serbs started everything by chasing three young boys into the Ebur, resulting in the deaths of two. The Serbs say it was started by the drive-by shooting of a Serbian youth by Albanians. According to the Albanians in Mitrovica, the Serbs are also trying to recolonise Kosovo, hoarding guns, failing to pay taxes ...

At Obilic all the Serbs have been chased out, and the local church burnt. Some had been driven from a block of flats right next to a police station with 60 officers, seven of them international instructors. Sergeant Jean Philippe Stephan, seconded from the French police, shrugged: "There was nothing we could do, except evacuate them. We made a security cordon and got the Serbs inside it. Then KFor came and took them out ... There are no Serbs left in Obilic now, and I cannot see them coming back."

There is a feeling among many Albanians, especially those who fought in the rebellion against Belgrade, that Kosovo has not received its just rewards. The UN has insisted that every effort must be made to re-absorb the Serbs who fled after the war. Some had returned, and been given jobs in international organisations which has translated into signs of favouritism.

The Kosovo Liberation Army, Washington's protégés during the war, reinvented as the Kosovo Democratic Party, said the Serbs "don't want to integrate in Kosovar society. Even five years after the war, their will remains the same - the will for violence against the Albanians."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
News
Comic miserablist Larry David in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
peopleDirector of new documentary Misery Loves Comedy reveals how he got them to open up
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
News
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday's big match
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Environment
Dame Vivienne Westwood speaking at a fracking protest outside Parliament on Monday (AP)
environment
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness