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Kosovo Albanians Attack Serb Police

May 6, 1998

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Albanian militants seeking to wrest the southern province of Kosovo from Serbia attacked a Serb police patrol today, killing one officer and wounding two, police said. A rebel also was killed.

In a separate attack, Rifat Shala, an ethnic Albanian seeking independence for Kosovo, was shot and killed by unidentified assailants.

Enver Maloku, an aide to Kosovo Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova, said Shala was killed in Berane, a village 30 miles west of Pristina, the provincial capital.

Pressure appeared to be growing on the Serbs to accept ethnic Albanian demands for foreign mediation of talks, with Russia, the Serbs’ most powerful ally, reportedly backing the idea.

The Beta news agency cited Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov as suggesting that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe could get involved as a ``participant in establishing negotiations.″

Speaking in Belgrade on Tuesday, Ivanov also reportedly said Russia is considering sending troops to Macedonia, to join American and other soldiers serving there as part of a U.N. force meant to contain Balkan tensions.

Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov said his country supported Kosovo Albanian demands for more autonomy but opposed full independence or a separate Kosovo republic within Yugoslavia.

The policeman killed today was shot in Kosovska Mitrovica, a town 25 miles northwest of Pristina, police said. The wounded officer was transferred to a Belgrade hospital.

Serbian state television said the attack was carried out by ``terrorists.″

There was no claim of responsiblity, but the attack appeared to be the work of the Kosovo Liberation Army, the ethnic Albanian group that has claimed responsibility for dozens of killings of Serbs and pro-Serb ethnic Albanians since 1996.

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