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Kosovo: Peace Holds After Funeral Of Ethnic Albanian Boys


Pristina, 22 March 2004 (RFE/RL) -- The fragile peace in Kosovo appears to be holding after funeral services for two ethnic-Albanian boys yesterday passed without incident.

The boys drowned last week after allegedly being chased into a river by Serbian youths. The deaths sparked interethnic riots that led to at least 24 people being killed and hundreds injured.

"With their generosity and dignity, [the families] set an example for all Kosovars on how to behave in the most difficult times."
Several thousand ethnic-Albanian Kosovars attended the funeral services in the village of Cabra, 40 kilometers north of the capital, Pristina. Kosovo's Prime Minister Barjam Rexhepi spoke at the funeral. "It is really hard to find the right words to ease the pain for the families who lost their most loved ones," he said.

Before the funeral, the father of one of the dead boys appealed for an end to the violence. Rexhepi praised the families for trying to restore peace between Kosovo's ethnic Albanians and Serbs.

"With their generosity and dignity, [the families] set an example for all Kosovars on how to behave in the most difficult times," Rexhepi said.

No violent incidents were reported. NATO deployed armored vehicles and 700 troops in northern Kosovo to prevent bloodshed. Before the funerals, UN police spokesman Derek Chappel also expressed the hope that extremists would not exploit the funeral.

The mainly Serbian village of Zubca, which was along the route of the funeral procession, had been evacuated earlier and houses there were surrounded with barbed wire.

NATO has sent about 2,000 troops to the UN-administered province to reinforce the existing contingent of 18,500 troops there to maintain the peace.
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