World Cup shots scare Italian-guarded Serbs

Published on July 5, 2006, Reuters

Category: Violence Against Christian Serbs and Their Holy Places

PRISTINA, Serbia, July 5 (Reuters) - Someone scared the wits out of Kosovo Serb villagers by firing in the air on Tuesday night to celebrate Italy's World Cup win over Germany, but NATO denies it was Italian troops stationed nearby. The gunfire broke out at the remote village of Grabac right after the final whistle of the match in Dortmund. Grabac was abandoned by Serbs fleeing Albanian revenge attacks in 1999 but recently repopulated by about 100 who agreed to return home, under the protection of the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force. A KFOR spokesman, Klaus Treude, told Reuters there was some gunfire and the Serbs had complained. But he said the shooting "did not come from KFOR soldiers". An investigation was being carried out to discover who had done it, he added. The Bosnian Serb news agency SRNA quoted a representative of the Serb community, Tatjana Tosic, as saying the gunfire cracked roofs and broke tiles in Grabac. "People retreated into their homes because of the gunfire and the situation calmed down only after the arrival of a KFOR patrol and the Kosovo Police Service in Grabac," she said. "The shooting was most probably by the Italians," local resident Stojan Doncic told Reuters. "There was a mortar fired as well into Grabac. But that was probably from the Albanians." A police statement said police were alerted to automatic weapons fire and an explosion in the vicinity but a patrol could find no damage or other evidence. The United Nations and NATO have controlled the Serbian province since the summer of 1999, when Serb forces were driven out after 11 weeks of bombing by NATO to stop the killing of civilians as Serbia fought Albanian guerrillas. Italy beat Germany 2-0 in the dying minutes of extra time to knock the host nation out of the World Cup and advance to the finals against France or Portugal. The French and Portuguese, whose teams meet later on Wednesday, also have troops in Kosovo.

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