Serbs Seize One Rebel Redoubt, Attack Second

From Associated Press

Serbian forces backed by mortars and machine guns captured a major ethnic Albanian stronghold in Kosovo on Wednesday and attacked another, trapping thousands of civilians and rebels.

Yugoslavia's state Tanjug news agency reported that Serbian police entered Glodjane, near the Albanian border, and said the village was "under full police control" as of early afternoon.

Five Serbian police officers and two Yugoslav army soldiers were killed in the two-day battle, Tanjug said. The Kosovo Information Center, close to the ethnic Albanian leadership, reported seven Kosovo Liberation Army fighters killed and 49 wounded.

Heavy exchanges of machine-gun fire and mortars were seen near Glodjane on Wednesday morning as Serbian police launched a mop-up operation. Smoke billowed from several houses.

Ethnic Albanian sources said Serbian police launched a simultaneous attack Wednesday against nearby Junik, a main KLA base where about 1,000 KLA fighters and as many civilians are believed to be trapped. The village has been under Serbian siege and sporadic shelling for three weeks.

State television in neighboring Albania, which sympathizes with the Kosovo Albanians, also reported heavy fighting in Junik with deaths on both sides and some territorial gains made by the rebels.

But Tanjug said Albanian "terrorists" in Junik lobbed mortars at Serbian police who have been "blocking" the village for more than 10 days. "The police did not respond," the report said.

Independent B-92 Radio in Belgrade, the Serbian and Yugoslav capital, quoting Serbian and Kosovo Albanian sources, described Wednesday's fighting near the border as the fiercest since the clashes in Kosovo started in early March.

Serbian troops have been fighting the KLA rebels seeking independence from Serbia, the dominant republic of the rump Yugoslavia. Ethnic Albanians outnumber Serbs 9 to 1 in Kosovo, a province in southern Serbia.

Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic had promised European Union envoys that Junik would not be attacked.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World