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Killing, Blockade Confront Kosovo Force

September 27, 1999|SCOTT MARTELLE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia — A guard at the former rebel Kosovo Liberation Army headquarters at the edge of this provincial capital was shot and killed at 9 a.m. Sunday in an attack that also left an attendant at a nearby gas station wounded, NATO officials said.

Two hours later, Serbs blocked the major road between Pristina and the western part of the province to protest an earlier weapons raid on an apartment.

The incidents followed several days of low-intensity violence across the war-ravaged province as NATO peacekeepers continue to struggle to keep ethnic Albanians and Serbs from killing one another.

The slaying of the ethnic Albanian guard was being investigated by the recently formed United Nations police force.

An unidentified NATO spokesman, though, said there was no immediate indication of whether the man was killed for political or personal reasons. Investigators also did not know how the second man, who was working across the street, was wounded, the spokesman said.

The KLA formally disbanded at midnight Tuesday, and as many as 5,000 of its former fighters are preparing to join the new Kosovo Protection Corps. Under a demilitarization agreement with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, former KLA fighters will be allowed to carry light weapons to protect KLA property and, in the future, KPC property. It was unclear, though, whether the slain guard was armed.

The blockade, which shut down the main east-west road between Pristina and the western city of Pec, occurred when Serbs in Kosovo Polje rose in protest over a raid on an unoccupied apartment by Britain's Irish Guards that netted four AK-47 assault rifles, two pistols, five rifle-style grenade launchers and 1,100 rounds of ammunition, said British armed forces spokeswoman Lt. Col. Gill Prowse.

The blockade, in the form of a sit-in in the middle of the road, forced peacekeepers to reroute vehicles and at least one military convoy through dusty lanes alongside a railroad track, tying up traffic for hours.

The protest ended after peacekeepers promised to step up protection of Serbs, who have been targeted by Kosovo Albanians since NATO forces ended a vicious Serbian campaign to drive ethnic Albanians from the province. Kosovo is a province of Serbia, Yugoslavia's main republic.

NATO peacekeepers Sunday also reported the death of a Serbian woman wounded in a grenade attack in the town of Lipljan on Wednesday. She was the sixth Serb killed in Kosovo in less than a week.

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Times wire services contributed to this report.

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