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Peacekeepers Trying To Quell Ethnic Violence In Kosovo

Kosovska Mitrovica, Kosovo; 18 March 2004 (RFE/RL) -- NATO-led peacekeepers and United Nations police are seeking to regain control in Kosovo after violence between ethnic Albanians and Serbs left as many as 17 people dead and upwards of 250 others injured.

Violence was reported yesterday in every major city in Kosovo in the worst outbreak of fighting in the province since the end of the 1999 war.

Clashes were reported continuing into late yesterday, with ethnic Albanians in a number of Kosovo locations burning the homes and other buildings of minority Serbs, who were being evacuated by NATO-led forces.

Serbian demonstrators gathered late the same day in Belgrade to demand government action to protect the Kosovo Serbs. An historic mosque in the center of Belgrade was set on fire, while another mosque in the southern Serbian city of Nis was also set ablaze.

Kosovo's leadership, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, NATO, and the United States have all appealed for calm to prevent the situtation from further deteriorating.

Clashes initially flared yesterday in the ethnically divided town of Kosovska Mitrovica after unconfirmed reports that Serbs had chased three ethnic Albanian boys into a river, where they drowned. The UN said two dead children had been found.

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