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Yugoslavia: UN Refugee Agency Protests Mass Detentions By Serbs

Geneva, 8 September 1998 (RFE/RL) - The United Nations refugee agency, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), has protested to the Serb authorities over the mass detention of ethnic Albanian men in the southern Serbian province of Kosovo. UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski told reporters in Geneva today that about 450 ethnic Albanians were detained last weekend and a further 50 men were separated from their families and led off to an unknown destination by Yugoslav soldiers. News reports say that most of those detained were later released. But ethnic Albanian sources say some 60 people are still in custody or are missing.

Serb authorities confirmed the arrest of 40 or 50 men on unspecified offenses. Belgrade media carried estimates of 600 ethnic Albanians arrested in the last four days.

Janowski said this, the first acknowledged round-up of people in six months of fighting in Kosovo, raises memories of horrors from the Bosnian war. During that war, thousands of men of military age were taken away from their families and massacred by Bosnian Serbs. The worst atrocity followed the fall of the Srebrenica enclave.

Earlier today, the UN launched an appeal to provide $54 million for Kosovo, where an estimated 270,000 people have lost or fled their homes and an estimated 50,000 are living outdoors in forests and mountains. They were displaced by a Serbian crackdown on the separatist Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK), which has been fighting since February for independence from Serbia for the province where ethnic Albanians outnumber Serbs nine-to-one.