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Slain Kosovo Fighter Buried

June 17, 1998

CRNI LUG, Yugoslavia (AP) _ In a show of their growing support and confidence, the separatist Kosovo Liberation Army buried a fallen comrade with military honors Wednesday after a funeral attended by thousands of villagers.

Imer Krasniqi, 41, was shot Tuesday by a Serb sniper not far from his home village of Crni Lug, about 20 miles southwest of the provincial capital of Pristina.

About 200 armed ethnic Albanian militants, including a handful of women, stood at attention as the wooden coffin, draped with a red-and-black Albanian flag, was carried to the grave on a hill overlooking Crni Lug (pronounced TSERNee-LOOG).

A six-man honor guard fired three times into the air as Krasniqi’s grieving family looked on, surrounded by about 5,000 people from neighboring villages.

``We came because he is our fighter,″ said one, a 35-year-old former truck driver who gave only his first name, Behram. ``We are all with them,″ he said, referring to the Kosovo Liberation Army.

Serb police, stationed at checkpoints just a few miles from Crni Lug, did not interfere with the funeral. The village is within the 40 percent or so of Kosovo that the ethnic Albanian militants say they control in their war for independence from Serbia.

Foreign journalists were allowed to witness the burial, but not to interview any KLA members, who were dressed in a hodgepodge of camouflage uniforms with mismatched caps and carried a variety of guns.

Little is known about the group’s size or structure, but the militants have recently started to emerge from the shadows as they gain more and more popular support _ apparently at the expense of the ethnic Albanians’ pacifist political leader, Ibrahim Rugova.

Serbia has branded the KLA’s members terrorists and has waged an anti-insurgency campaign since February. More than 300 people have been killed in the fighting and tens of thousands of others forced from their homes.

Fighting reportedly continued Wednesday. Ethnic Albanian sources said Serbs shelled four villages in the Klina region, 30 miles west of Kosovo.

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