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Serb Suspected in Sevce Surrenders

April 9, 2000

KOSOVKSA MITROVICA, Yugoslavia (AP) _ A Serb suspect whose failed arrest sparked clashes, in which 11 American soldiers were injured, turned himself in to the U.S military Sunday, ending a standoff between radical Serbs and NATO-led peacekeeping troops.

U.S. military officials said Zoran Janicevic’s decision to surrender meant peacekeepers would resume their services to residents of Sevce, the all-Serb village where violence flared on Tuesday. That included escorting Serbs out of the isolated mountain village on shopping trips, working on building projects and other social welfare.

Most of the Serbs depend on welfare benefits to survive since last year’s 78-day NATO air war, which forced troops loyal to President Slobodan Milosevic out of the province.

``He looked at his options and decided to turn himself in,″ said Capt. Russell Berg, a spokesman at Camp Bondsteel, the main U.S base in Kosovo.

Janicevic, who is believed to be about 30, was taken to Camp Bondsteel in the American sector in the southeast of the province early Sunday. He was detained for violating weapons regulations, Berg said.

Also Sunday, French peacekeepers fired tear gas to prevent renewed clashes between ethnic Albanians and Serbs in the ethnically divided city of Kosovksa Mitrovica.

The troops blocked the main bridge of the Ibar River to keep about 100 Serbs from crossing it from the northern sector, which they dominate, and entering the southern ethnic Albanian side of the city. Serbs threw stones, and three French soldiers were slightly injured.

Tensions were heightened because there was an Albanian soccer match being played on the southern side and lots of supporters were milling in the street. Tensions likely were also stoked by three men who crossed the bridge into the Serb sector and took pictures.

French military spokesman Lieut. Col. Patrick Chanliau said the three were ethnic Albanians wearing ID cards of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Hanns Christian Klasing, press officer for the OSCE in Mitrovica, said the three ``paid a visit to the north of Mitrovica, they were not on official business. They encountered a group of Serbs, photographed them and got trapped between the lines.″

Local Serb leader Oliver Ivanovic said the Albanians provoked the Serbs.

``This was no accident,″ he said.

Tuesday’s clash in Sevce left the largest number of Americans injured in a single operation since the Kosovo peacekeeping mission began in June. About 1,000 Serb civilians, wielding sticks and throwing stones in a narrow gorge near the Macedonian border, clashed with American troops who were attempting to arrest Janicevic.

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