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Kosovo: renewed fighting displaces 9,000

Briefing notes

Kosovo: renewed fighting displaces 9,000

23 February 1999

Renewed fighting in Kosovo has driven an estimated 9,000 people from their homes since last week-end, in the worst wave of displacement this year.

On the weekend, around 5,000 people fled the Studencane area in Suva Reka municipality following an encounter between security forces and the KLA.

On Monday, police and army units fired at several villages in the Vucitrn about 25 kilometres north-west of Pristina, prompting some 4,000 people to flee their homes, UNHCR teams reported. UNHCR saw at least five ethnic Albanians wounded either by gunshots or shrapnel.

Serbian authorities said that police were fired at by the Kosovo Liberation Army while they were conducting military exercises. Villagers fleeing their homes said police and army units came to the village of Doljak early Monday. They later heard gunfire and explosions and they fled their homes.

Along the railway track at Doljak, UNHCR saw three groups of people who had fled from Doljak and Stitarica numbering between 500 and 800 mostly women and children. They said police along the main road were allowing only women and children to head for Vucitrn. Since they did not wish to be separated from the men, they just sat there, requesting OSCE to escort them out. On arrival in Doljak, the UNHCR team was told that 800 residents of Doljak had fled, along with 900 from Stitarica, 1,200 from Okrastica , 840 from Bukos, 300 from Jezero, 400 from Balince and 120 from Taradza. Only men remained in the villages.

After police withdrew from the area shortly after noon, UNHCR saw the people who had been on the railway track heading back to their villages. But several thousand more remained with friends and relatives at Osljane, Ljubovac and Galica. UNHCR saw one house at Galica packed with more than 50 people. Most of them were women and children who carried nothing in their hasty flight.

Elsewhere at Leskovcic in Obilic just outside Pristina, UNHCR was told that residents there had begun to leave after police started searching for KLA men over the weekend. UNHCR saw a busload of people heading for Pristina on Monday morning.