Explosion damages home of Gorani minority members in Kosovo, no injured

Published on October 3, 2006, The Associated Press

Category: Violence Against Christian Serbs and Their Holy Places

PRISTINA, Serbia An explosion damaged the house of a Gorani minority member in a southern Kosovo village, but caused no injuries, police said Monday.

The government denounced Sunday's attack, and said such incidents were aimed at destabilizing Kosovo amid U.N.-led negotiations on the province's future status. A key consideration during the talks has been Kosovo's ability to provide security to minority groups.

"That criminal act serves those forces trying to damage at any cost Kosovo's overall processes," the government said in a statement.

The explosion caused "considerable material damage" to the house in Rapqe e Nalte village, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of capital, Pristina, police spokesman Veton Elshani said.

The Gorani owner of the house works with the Serbian Coordination Center for Kosovo, a Serbian government body working in the province. Gorani is one of the minority groups among Kosovo's 2 million population, along with Serbs, Turks, Ashkali and others. About 90 percent of the population is ethnic Albanian.

Serbian media reported that the Gorani family hid in the garage for safety after the house owner's daughter saw the explosives in a bag in front of the house and a car driving away.

Police said they thought there was no connection between the blast and another explosion allegedly connected to property ownership conflicts in the same commune of Prizren.

Another explosion that injured four Serbs, and three other bombings that damaged cars in mid-September raised ethnic tensions amid ongoing status talks.

About 2,000-2,500 ethnic Serbs held a peaceful protest Monday against the opening of a bridge across the Ibar River linking the two communities in the ethnically divided town of Kosovska Mitrovica, 45 kilometers (30 miles) north of Pristina, police said.

The bridge has been closed three times in the last two months, following separate attacks on ethnic Serbs. It was closed Monday during the demonstration, and reopened when it was over.

U.N.-led negotiations to resolve Kosovo's status by the end of the year have stalled, with both sides unwilling to compromise on their demands.

Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leadership wants independence in the status talks, while Belgrade has offered broad autonomy while insisting Kosovo remain within Serb territory. How to govern Kosovska Mitrovica is expected to be another major sticking point.

Kosovo has been administered by the United Nations since 1999, when NATO air strikes drove out Serb troops.

An estimated 200,000 Serbs fled Kosovo after the 1988-99 conflict, fearing revenge attacks. Today, only about 100,000 remain, most living in small, isolated enclaves scattered around the province.

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