Two Kosovo Serbs Die in Attack on UN Bus
Filed By Reuters
VITAK, Yugoslavia (Reuters) - Attackers fired an anti-tank rocket at a U.N.
bus with 49 Kosovo Serbs on board, killing two elderly people and wounding
three other passengers, international authorities said.
The attack on Wednesday drew expressions of outrage from officials of the United Nations and the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force.
U.S. State Secretary Madeleine Albright said in a statement released by a State Department spokesman: ``We deplore the cowardly attack on defenseless Serb passengers on the UNHCR bus.
``This reprehensible act only serves to prolong the cycle of violence that has plagued Kosovo. We call on the leadership of the Kosovar Albanian community to join us in condemning this crime.''
The bus was travelling between two Serb enclaves when the attack took place on a foggy road about nine miles southwest of the northern city of Mitrovica, KFOR said.
Most of Kosovo's remaining Serbs now live in enclaves to protect themselves from revenge attacks by the province's ethnic Albanian majority, angry at years of Serb repression.
The attack was a major setback for efforts by peacekeepers to create the conditions to allow the return of Serbs who have fled Kosovo over the past year.
The office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which operated the weekly shuttle between Mitrovica and the village of Banja, said one elderly man and woman had been killed.
``This was a vicious attack on a clearly marked UNHCR bus carrying civilians,'' said Dennis McNamara, the UNHCR's special envoy for the Balkans.
The agency said it was suspending all the bus lines it operated in the province while the attack was investigated.
The chief U.N. police commissioner in Kosovo, Sven Frederiksen, went to New York on Wednesday to demand more personnel to police the Yugoslav province.
He said he had a force of 1,970 police officers from more than 40 countries out of 4,780 officers promised in a Security Council resolution last June.
``If the countries that signed up to the Security Council resolution want a success, they will have to come up with some people,'' Frederiksen said -- while also noting that the number of murders in Kosovo had dropped to one last week from 70 a week last July.
In Washington, NATO's military chief, U.S. Army General Wesley Clark, told a Senate committee civilian police were desperately needed in Kosovo. Senators told Europe to help or risk a U.S. pull out.
Reporters at the scene of Wednesday's attack, near the village of Vitak, saw the white bus upright by the side of a road, windows on its right side smashed and its panelling bashed. French troops and U.N. police guarded the area.
KFOR, which had provided an escort of two armored vehicles from French forces for the bus, said it had launched a massive search for the attackers.
``All the resources at KFOR's disposal are being utilized,'' KFOR spokesman, Lieutenant Commander Philip Anido, said.
KFOR initially said five people had been wounded but later revised the figure to three, all of them Serbs.
They were taken to a French military hospital in Mitrovica, the peacekeepers said. The wounds of one victim were severe. The bus driver, a Dane from his country's Refugee Council, was unhurt, UNHCR said.