Tensions flare after Albanian driver kills Kosovo Serb child, injures four

SKULANOVO, Kosovo (AP) - A car driven by an ethnic Albanian struck a group of Serbian children playing in a Kosovo field Sunday, killing one and injuring four. Serbs in this province divided by ethnic hatred quickly charged that the killing was deliberate.

Protesting a lack of security, angry Serbs attacked U.N. cars and peacekeepers' vehicles after the hit-and-run attack, breaking windshields. Both the United Nations and the peacekeepers ordered their forces to withdraw from the area.

U.N. officials said the car turned off the road and ran the children down in a field near the village of Skulanovo, about nine miles south of Pristina, Kosovo's capital.

Nikola Nikolic, 8, was killed instantly, while two others, identified as Marko and Jovica Talic, were seriously injured and taken to the Russian military hospital at Kosovo Polje. Two others children, Srdjan Krstic and Ivca Talic, were treated and released, according to the Belgrade-based Beta news agency. The ages of the injured children was not immediately available.

A NATO spokesman, Maj. Scott Slaten, said peacekeepers had arrested the driver of the vehicle. U.N. officials said he was an ethnic Albanian.

Ethnic hatreds run deep in Kosovo. An estimated 10,000 ethnic Albanians were killed by Serb forces during Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's 18-month crackdown against separatists in the province. After NATO bombing forced the Serb troops to withdraw last year, tens of thousands of Serb residents fled and ethnic Albanians began attacking Serbs as revenge.

A top leader of moderate Kosovo Serbs, Orthodox priest Sava Janjic, said Sunday's incident has ''horrified the Serb community.''

''The attacker deliberately hit the children,'' he told a reporter.

Besides having their vehicles attacked, an international official said, a U.N. police officer who went to the hospital to see the injured children was punched in the face by a relative of one of the victims. The official spoke on condition of anonymity.

''Our troops were ... stoned, cars were demolished,'' said Maj. Marko Lahtinen, a member of the Finnish contingent with the NATO-led force. ''The local population was behaving aggressively, but we didn't use force at any time.''

A demand from villagers that no Albanians be allowed to use the road through the community was rejected, he said.

A U.N. statement said the regional homicide squad was investigating the killing and ''an international judge and international prosecutor will be brought onto the case.'' U.N. officials said the suspect would likely be charged with vehicular homicide and driving while intoxicated.

In a separate incident with possible ethnic motives, a Serb man was shot in the head and killed in the village of Crkvena Vodica, NATO officials said. Nine Serb children were injured in the same village, about seven miles northwest of Pristina, earlier this month, after unidentified assailants hurled grenades at a crowded basketball court.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment