Security Stepped Up In Kosovo
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ The army called in reinforcements to tighten security in the troubled province of Kosovo, where a state of emergency has been in effect to quell ethnic tensions, Belgrade newspapers reported Sunday.
The newspapers quoted Maj. Gen. Andrija Silic, commander of the provincial capital of Pristina military corps, as saying that some military reservists in the area have been activated in the province.
Emergency measures, including a ban on mass gatherings and an increase of military and police strength, were introduced in Kosovo on Feb. 27 to prevent clashes between the ethnic Albanian majority and the Slav minority.
The measures came after protests by ethnic Albanians against planned constitutional changes they fear will limit the autonomy of the region which administratively belongs to the republic of Serbia.
Serbian leaders claim tighter control over Kosovo is necessary to protect the Slavs in the region who allege constant persecution and harassment by the Albanians majority.
Ninety percent of Kosovo’s 2 million population is ethnic Albanian. The province in southern Yugoslavia borders Albania.
″Armed force units have been placed in an increased state of combat readiness and part of military reservists have been mobilized″ in the province, Silic was quoted as saying by state media.
″The high state of our combat readiness ... is our great contribution to the stabilization of the situation (in Kosovo) and the best barrier against aggressive forces,″ Silic reportedly said.
National television Saturday night showed several tanks and armored vehicles on training exercises or on patrol in the province.
About 20 leading ethnic Albanian company directors or party officials, including Kosovo’s former Communist party chief Azem Vlasi, have been arrested in the province since Thursday in a crackdown on ethnic Albanian dissent.
Most of them allegedly belonged to an illegal group that reportedly detailed plans to destabilize the province by strikes and protests and then carry out an armed uprising in which the region would secede from Yugoslavia in order to join Albania.
Belgrade newspapers said Sunday that 250 ethnic Albanian shop owners, who closed their stores last week to protest the planned changes of the constitution, now face fines for violating working hours regulations.