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Ethnic Albanians Clash With Police

August 15, 2002

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PRISTINA, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Hundreds of ethnic Albanians clashed with U.N. special police units in western Kosovo on Thursday, protesting the recent arrests of several ethnic Albanian rebels, an official said. A NATO peacekeeper was injured.

The clash occurred after Spanish forces in riot gear tried to move a crowd that was blocking a key road in Decan, 55 miles southwest of Pristina. The protesters threw rocks at police.

Police in turn used tear gas to disperse the crowd, said Andrea Angeli, a spokesman for the U.N. mission in Kosovo province.

``The demonstration was planned and authorized, but they were told not to block the main road,″ Angeli said.

The protest ended with the detention of several protesters, but tensions remained as riot police and NATO-led peacekeepers were positioned in and around the town in armored vehicles.

The streets of the town were littered with rocks, tear gas cases and rubber bullets, eyewitnesses said.

One NATO peacekeeper was hurt when he was hit by a rock during the unrest, said Drew Anderson, a spokesman for the peacekeeping force.

Some 50 protesters sought medical treatment, mainly for tear gas inhalation, hospital officials said. Five were kept at the hospital for the treatment of fractures.

The protest was the latest in a series of demonstrations against the United Nations, which has shown greater resolve recently to arrest former ethnic Albanian rebel leaders. The former leaders remain popular in the province for having fought Serb forces during a crackdown on ethnic Albanians in 1998-1999.

Ethnic Albanians accuse the United Nations of a political campaign against leaders who fought for Kosovo’s independence. U.N. officials have denied that the arrests are politically motivated.

Kosovo officially remains part of Yugoslavia, but has been administered by the U.N. and NATO since June 1999, after an air war by the alliance halted a crackdown by Serb forces on independence-minded ethnic Albanians.

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