Published on Saturday, August 19, 2000 by Agence France Presse
Grenade Attack on Serbian Children As Kosovo Minorities Suffer
 
PRISTINA, Yugoslavia - Peacekeepers and UN police were Saturday hunting for a gang who threw at least two grenades at a group of Kosovo Serbian children playing basketball, a KFOR spokesman said.

The attack, which KFOR said left nine youngsters in need of hospital treatment, appears to be the latest in a campaign of hate which a leading humanitarian agency says is making life hell for Kosovo's minorities.

Grenade Attack
Police comfort victim of Pristina bomb blast [EPA/Elvis Barukcic]
The children and teenagers were attacked at around 8:50 p.m.Friday as they played in the Serbian village of Crkvena Vodica near the central Kosovo town of Obilic, five miles (eight kilometres) northwest of Pristina, KFOR spokesman Flight Lieutenant Tim Serrell-Cooke said.

A group of men threw the grenades from a car and drove off, KFOR and police said.

"This was a sick, cowardly attack on children playing," Major Scott Slaten, chief spokesman of the KFOR mutinational peacekeeping force, said.

Nine youngsters were taken to hospital for treatment for "minor injuries", Serrell-Cooke said.

The attack on the children came two days after the president of Medecins Sans Frontieres, the Nobel Prize winning medical humanitarian agency, launched a stinging attack at the "failure" of the international community to protect Kosovo's minorities.

James Orbinski said his organisation could no longer work in some minority enclaves of Kosovo because KFOR and UN police had allowed a "culture of impunity" to develop, in which extremists felt they could carry out ethnically motivated attacks without fear of getting caught.

"KFOR took the reponsibility to protect all the people of Kosovo, they should carry out that responsibility," Orbinski said. "Humanitarian work can not be a palliative for a failing security policy."

Kosovo, a province of Yugoslavia, has been administered by the United Nations since June last year when the arrival of KFOR brought to an end a bitter civil war between ethnic Albanian separatists and Yugoslav forces.

Since the intervention, which followed a vicious campaign of repression against ethnic Albanians, the province's Serbian minority has itself fallen prey to ethnically motivated violence.

Around 210,000 non-Albanians, mainly Serbs, have fled Kosovo since KFOR's arrival, and the 100,000-strong remaining minority population lives mainly in enclaves guarded by KFOR troops.

Following Friday's attack, a crowd of around 100 Serbs, angry at what they saw as the international community's failure to protect them, attacked a UN police officer and an ethnic Albanian officer of the Kosovo Police Service, UN spokeswoman Susan Manuel said.

The windows of the officers' car were broken and the two men were injured. Police reinforcements fired warning shots as they came in to rescue their comrades, a statement from the UN police said.

The situation was still tense in Crkvena Vodica early Saturday and a civilian car was stoned as it passed through the village, Serrell-Cooke said.

"We have prepared leaflets to give to the people in the village, explaining what happened and what we're doing about it," he said.

Also Friday two political offices, one in Pristina used by all parties and one in the central Kosovo town of Malisevo used by the moderate ethnic Albanian Democratic League of Kosovo, were damaged in explosions.

Kosovo's first post war municipal elections are to be held on October 28 and international observers expect violence to increase in the run up to the poll.

Copyright 2000 AFP

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