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Violence Plagues Kosovo

May 2, 1998

RAKITNICA, Yugoslavia (AP) _ A burned-out house, shattered walls peppered with machine-gun fire and gaping grenade holes testified Saturday to the latest Serbian police raid in Kosovo, where fear and loathing defy foreign attempts to halt the bloodshed.

Kosovo’s majority Albanians seem more determined than ever to push for independence. Armed militants, increasingly bold, roam the rugged countryside.

Heavily armed Serbian police, dug in behind sandbags, control main roads and towns, while soldiers of the Serb-led Yugoslav army duel along the border with gun smugglers from neighboring Albania.

More than 150 people have died in Kosovo since a Serbian police crackdown against militants two months ago raised foreign fears of war.

The latest police raid in Drenica, the central Kosovo region where the crackdown began, claimed four more lives Friday, ethnic Albanians said.

Sporadic gunfire still echoed in the distance Saturday as Agim Emini’s bullet-riddled body, its head blown half away, lay amid shards of glass in the family yard.

Emini died in a field behind his house in Rakitnica, during what his cousin Latif said was a three-hour assault by 150 policemen. His shoes remained where he was shot, and the grass was stained with blood.

Windows in his family’s compound were shattered. Walls bore the scars of dozens of bullets and grenades.

In nearby Vojnik, three people were killed and three others injured, said the Kosovo Information Center, which releases information for the ethnic Albanians’ main party.

That could not be independently verified.

Police fired two 20-millimeter grenades Saturday toward the village of Iglarevo. A policeman who refused to give his name said it was in response to gunfire from Albanian homes.

Ethnic Albanians make up 90 percent of Kosovo’s 2 million people but most Serbs treasure the region as the heartland of their medieval empire.

The clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army, fighting since 1996 to win independence by force, seems to be growing.

Five armed men, some wearing its UCK insignia, were on a dirt road between the ghost villages of Kopilic and Turicevac, near the site of Friday’s police raid.

``We will keep this territory and defend Kopilic with our lives,″ said a man wearing a cowboy hat emblazoned UCK, who refused to give his name. Women and children fled the raid, he said. ``It’s just us now in Kopilic.″

The road was strewn with spent cartridges. One house had blackened walls, no windows, and no roof.

Last week, the United States and its allies proposed penalties for Yugoslavia _ including freezing Serb assets broad _ for refusing to reach a deal with the ethnic Albanians.

European Union foreign ministers backed the measures on Saturday and offered to mediate in an attempt to end the military crackdown.

Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who revoked Kosovo’s autonomy in 1989, rejects foreign mediation, saying Serbs can solve the problems.

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