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Swiss Seize Account Allegedly Used to Fund Ethnic Albanians

<i> From Times Wire Services</i>

Police raided the homes of Kosovo ethnic Albanians in Switzerland on Monday and froze at least one bank account on suspicion it was being used to fund Kosovo’s rebels, officials said.

The action was the first of its kind by a Western state since February’s outbreak of fighting in the Serbian province, where Kosovo Liberation Army rebels are fighting for independence for the majority ethnic Albanian population.

It follows an appeal this month by the six-nation Contact Group--the United States, Russia, Britain, France, Germany and Italy--to intercept the flow of funds to the rebels.

Juerg Blaser, spokesman for the federal prosecutor’s office, said police raided three homes early Monday and froze at least one bank account on suspicion of links with arms dealing. He said police were questioning three ethnic Albanians.

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“We have been told that the money in the accounts was being used for humanitarian purposes. But we have suspicions that it was being used in arms trafficking,” Blaser said.

Earlier this month, the German government said it was trying to stop supporters of the KLA from extorting money from the estimated 140,000 Kosovo Albanians who live in Germany.

U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke was recently quoted by a German newspaper as saying the KLA was receiving crucial funds and recruits from supporters in Germany, Switzerland and Denmark.

A Swiss-based group with links to the KLA denied the accounts in question had been used to buy weapons. “The money was being used to buy medicine. The accounts here have never been used to fund arms purchases,” said Mahmuti Bardhyl, the spokesman abroad for the KLA-supporting People’s Movement of Kosovo.

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