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Soldiers Reported Wounded in Kosovo

February 13, 2000

KOSOVSKA MITROVICA, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Grenade explosions and gunfire in the tense, ethnically divided city of Kosovska Mitrovica wounded seven residents and two French soldiers Sunday, U.N. police said.

Serb sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the trouble began when several ethnic Albanians from the southern side of the city, where they are the majority, crossed a bridge over the Ibar River leading to the Serb side and threw several hand grenades. A large number of Serbs gathered, and NATO peacekeepers tried to control the crowd.

U.N. police said seven residents _ all on the Serb side _ were wounded when someone threw a grenade at their house. Sgt. Maj. Mark Cox, a peacekeepers’ spokesman, said he had reports of six injured, all ethnic Albanian.

At least 10 French tanks rumbled from the ethnic Albanian side of the city to the Serb side. Civilians on the ethnic Albanian side were warned to take cover from possible sniper fire from the Serb section. The bridge _ the scene of previous confrontation _ was cordoned off with barbed wire.

Cox said two French soldiers were wounded by snipers in separate incidents, but he had no further details. British peacekeepers said one of the soldiers was shot in the stomach, the other in the arm.

Kosovo’s most multiethnic city has been wracked by violence since a grenade attack on a U.N. bus Feb. 2 killed two elderly Serbs. Serbs then began forcing ethnic Albanians to leave their homes in the northern part of the city despite appeals by U.N. chief administrator Bernard Kouchner and others.

Late Saturday, French and Danish troops raided the Dolce Vita cafe on the northern end of the bridge across the Ibar River.

French Capt. Olivier St. Leger said the raid occurred after customers prevented a patrol from arresting a Serb man seen trying to break into an ethnic Albanian home. St. Leger said the cafe was closed for the night, and NATO troops were standing guard outside.

On Friday, Kouchner announced new security measures, including more U.N. police and NATO troops to protect ethnic Albanians. That did little to calm the deteriorating situation.

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