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Arms Seized in Kosovo; 13 Held

December 21, 2000|From Associated Press

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia — American and British peacekeepers patrolling Kosovo's volatile border area detained 13 people Wednesday and seized a cache of weapons believed destined for ethnic Albanian rebels operating in southern Serbia.

Troops stopped the men in Draghibac Mala, 35 miles southeast of Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, and found machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and hand grenades, as well as military uniforms and maps in their vehicle, the peacekeepers said in a statement.

The 13 men were taken to the U.S. military's detention center at Camp Bondsteel for questioning. Kosovo is a province of Serbia, the dominant republic of Yugoslavia, but has been under United Nations administration.

Ethnic Albanian insurgents have seized positions from Serbian police in recent weeks, killing four policemen in a 3-mile-wide buffer zone along the Serbian side of the border. The buffer zone was set up after the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's 78-day air war against Yugoslavia ended in June 1999. The air war was launched to halt then-President Slobodan Milosevic's crackdown against Kosovo Albanians.

Wednesday's arrests highlight NATO's dedication "to ensuring that ethnic Albanian armed groups are not permitted to use Kosovo as a staging area for extremist activity," alliance spokesman Maj. Steven R. Shappell said in a statement.

The buffer zone was established to protect the NATO-led peacekeepers in Kosovo. Yugoslav forces cannot use heavy weapons in the zone, so ethnic Albanians have been operating there with impunity. The rebels are trying to drive Yugoslav forces from the area, which has an ethnic Albanian majority.

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