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Shots Fired at Police in Yugoslav Ethnic Unrest

From Reuters

Ethnic Albanian rioters shot at police Saturday as Yugoslavia’s Kosovo province was shaken by a third straight day of violence, Tanjug news agency said.

Demonstrators threw stones and bricks at police, and some fired shots from pistols, Tanjug reported from the Kosovo town of Urosevac, 150 miles south of Belgrade.

Tanjug did not mention any injuries, nor whether police returned fire.

Earlier, Tanjug reported that police reinforcements ringed the town after dispersing the demonstrators but said there were sporadic clashes in back streets as protesters tried to regroup.

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Reuters correspondent Andrej Gustincic reported from Urosevac--scene of the most widespread ethnic Albanian unrest in eight years--that the main road out of town was strewn with broken glass and rocks. Three cars were overturned and a truck tire had been burned.

In Kosovo, the ethnic Albanian majority objects to new rules that limit the province’s self-rule and give control of the region to Serbia, largest of Yugoslavia’s six republics.

Demonstrators fired several shots at police in Urosevac on Thursday, the first day of riots following the agreement of Kosovo’s assembly to the political changes. No one was hit and police did not return fire.

Police ordered all people off the streets after dispersing most of the crowd of 3,000 to 4,000 chanting demonstrators in Urosevac on Saturday.

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A paramilitary policeman in a gas mask fired stun grenades onto one road, witnesses reported. They said protesters attacked three Yugoslav television teams, smashing cameras.

The witnesses said the trouble in Urosevac flared suddenly. People were strolling around, then crowds gathered and shouted such slogans against the new rules as “Better dead than a slave.”

Police in riot gear and masks fired tear gas and used truncheons to break up the crowd and drive its members to the town’s outskirts.

Under the constitutional changes adopted by Kosovo’s parliament Thursday, Serbia will control the province’s police, civil defense, courts and selection of officials. It will also be able to change Kosovo’s status in the future.

Despite Serbian denials, the 1.7 million ethnic Albanians fear these changes will erode their national rights.

Serbia says Albanian nationalists are persecuting Kosovo’s 200,000 Serbian minority with the aim of breaking away from the Yugoslav federation and joining neighboring Albania.

In combatting resistance to the changes, the authorities have fired or suspended hundreds of miners and factory workers for defying work orders in Kosovo.


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