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Albanians, Serbs Battle in Kosovo

July 25, 1998

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Ethnic Albanian militants exchanged gunfire with government forces in Kosovo, both sides said today, amid reports the United States has stepped up efforts for a peace plan in the Serbian province.

The ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army attacked an army unit and a police patrol today about 25 miles southwest of the provincial capital, Pristina, the Serb Media Center said. The center said government forces returned fire, wounding two and apprehending 10 other ethnic Albanian militants.

Serb sources also said the militants attacked a Yugoslav army unit late Friday about 20 miles west of Pristina and targeted Serb police and civilians in the nearby village of Kijevo.

The ethnic Albanian Kosovo Information Center said Serb and Yugoslav forces battled the KLA in the same area, pushing forces back and torching four Albanian homes.

Independent confirmation of the reports or reliable information on possible casualties was not immediately available.

The latest escalation came amid reports that the United States and its European allies are laying out a joint plan to bring peace to the Serbian province of 2 million people, 90 percent of them are ethnic Albanians. Many in the province are determined to secede from Serbia.

U.S. envoy Christopher Hill met Friday with moderate ethnic Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova to explore ways to reach a cease-fire and arrange talks with the government on Kosovo’s future.

More than 300 people have died and tens of thousands of others have fled their homes since long-standing tensions turned into violent clashes five months ago, following a crackdown by Serb security forces.

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