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Serbia: Defense Minister Says Conflict Escalating In South

Belgrade, 13 August 2003 (RFE/RL) -- The defense minister of Serbia and Montenegro is warning that violence is rising between Serbs and ethnic Albanians in and around Kosovo. Boris Tadic said two attacks over the past two days represent what he called an "escalation of conflicts." He described the two incidents the "synchronized activity of ethnic Albanian extremists."

On 11 August, militants of a group called the Albanian National Army fired mortar shells on an army base in southern Serbia. Yesterday, a group of about 15 people -- identified by Serbs as "Albanian extremists" -- fired on an army patrol near Kosovo's provincial border. No one was hurt in the attacks.

United Nations police spokesman Derek Chappell said the gunmen in the second clash were possibly not extremists, but ethnic Albanians who had crossed out of Kosovo to illegally cut wood.