18 January 2007

Grenade explodes in Serb classroom in Kosovo

Reuters, Tue Nov 21, 2006 8:47 AM ET


PRISTINA, Serbia (Reuters) - A grenade exploded in a classroom used by Serb children in Kosovo on Tuesday, but the elementary school pupils escaped injury, police said.


A Kosovo police spokesman said the grenade exploded in a stove used to heat the classroom shortly after lessons began at around 7.50 a.m. (0650 GMT) at the Trajko Peric school in the village of Veliko Ropotovo near the eastern town of Kamenica.


"The stove was completely destroyed and some parts of the classroom as well," said spokesman Veton Elshani.


A Kosovo Serb education official said the children had been moved to another classroom minutes earlier because their teacher was absent, leaving the room empty. "So tragedy was avoided," Zivorad Tomic told the Serb state news agency Tanjug.


Kosovo is braced for a possible rise in ethnic violence following a move by major powers this month to delay a United Nations decision on the ethnic Albanian majority's demand for independence from Serbia.


The breakaway province has been run by the U.N. since NATO bombing forced Serbian troops out in 1999 and peacekeepers led by the Western alliance took over. Kamenica lies in the part of Kosovo patrolled by U.S. units of the NATO-led KFOR mission.


Some 100,000 Serbs live in Kosovo, many in isolated enclaves.


At least half the prewar Serb population fled a wave of revenge attacks after the NATO deployment in 1999. U.N. officials say attacks on Serbs are falling, but their freedom of movement remains restricted.


A U.N. envoy says he will make his proposal on Kosovo's "final status" -- widely expected to set the province on the path to independence -- after a Serbian parliamentary election on January 21.


Some 10,000 ethnic Albanians died and 800,000 fled during Serbia's 1998-99 war against separatist guerrillas.