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Violence Flares in Western Kosovo

May 27, 1998

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Serbian police and ethnic Albanian separatists battled in western Kosovo for the second day Tuesday, sparking fears of an escalation of violence in the independence-minded province.

The latest fighting raged around the town of Decane, about 40 miles west of the provincial capital of Pristina. Ethnic Albanian sources said at least 10 people have been killed since Monday. But more were feared dead.

The fighting appeared to be the worst violence since early March when a Serbian police crackdown on Kosovo separatists left about 80 dead, mostly ethnic Albanians. Altogether, nearly 200 people have died in Kosovo since March.

Most ethnic Albanians want Kosovo independent from Serbia, which forms Yugoslavia together with Montenegro. Ethnic Albanians make up 90 percent of Kosovo’s population.

The fighting between Serbian forces trying to control the area and members of the Kosovo Liberation Army have raised fears of a wider Balkan war.

The most recent clashes started Monday after Serb police reported several attacks by ethnic Albanian militants near Decane. One policeman died of wounds from sniper fire, the Serbian Media Center reported.

The Kosovo Information Center, an ethnic Albanian group, said Serbian police were shelling Decane and surrounding villages Tuesday. It said about 7,000 people have fled the fighting.

U.N. officials in Geneva, Switzerland, said the number of displaced people in Kosovo had risen to more than 34,000.

The Kosovo Information Center carried dramatic witness testimonies of how Serbian police stormed the village of Ljubenic after shelling it for several hours Monday.

Mehmet Goga said police took his three sons and a nephew out of their house and fired on them, killing one of the sons.

``The police stormed the village looking for men. They took out my sons and nephew and lined them up by the wall. They fell down after police fired,″ Goga said.