Reuters, April 17, 2001
Serbia Says Policeman Injured in Guerrilla Attack
BUJANOVAC, Apr 17, 2001 - A Serb policeman was injured in an ethnic Albanian guerrilla attack in volatile southern Serbia on Monday, a government spokeswoman said.
A police unit based on a mountain west of the town of Vranje came under guerrilla fire, spokeswoman Milena Kovacevic said at a government-run press center in the nearby town of Bujanovac. She said police returned fire.
The reported incident took place despite a NATO-brokered ceasefire agreement between the two sides last month.
Kovacevic said the policeman was injured by mortar shrapnel in the attack on the edge of a five kilometer (three mile) wide post-war buffer zone ringing Kosovo, an ethnic Albanian dominated Yugoslav province under UN administration.
"Policeman Mirko Maksimovic was injured in the chest and back. He was taken to the regional hospital in Vranje," she told Reuters. "The attack lasted 40 minutes and the UCPMB used mortars and small caliber cannons."
She was referring to the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac, named after three municipalities in the area, known under its Albanian acronym UCPMB.
There was no immediate guerrilla comment on the incident. The two sides usually blame each other for the violence.
Since early 2000, the rebels have used parts of the buffer zone east of Kosovo as a sanctuary from which to attack security forces in the Presevo Valley region, contending that local Albanians are being persecuted by Serbs.
Belgrade's new democratic government sees the rebels as terrorists bent on uniting the area with ethnic Albanian-dominated Kosovo.
The violence has killed more than 30 people since early last year. The two sides in March agreed a ceasefire but there have been repeated reports of violations.
As part of efforts to curb the rebels, NATO is allowing Yugoslav troops to re-enter the 400-kiometer (250-mile) long Ground Safety Zone (GSZ), section by section. The latest deployment, north of Vranje, took place on Saturday without any incidents.
They have yet to be let into the most contentious area in the most southerly part of Serbia, where the UCPMB guerrillas are operating.