14 February 2007

Blast destroys Kosovo railway used by Serbs

Reuters, 12/10/2006 11:2:24


Pristina, Serbia . An explosion in Kosovo destroyed a railway line used primarily by minority Serbs but no one was hurt, UN police in the breakaway Serbian province said yesterday.


The so-called "Freedom of Movement Train" that thousands of Serbs scattered across Kosovo use to reach northern Mitrovica, where many Serbs live, was halted on the tracks before the site of the explosion, just short of a river crossing.


The blast happened on Friday evening near the northern town of Vucitrn. It destroyed several metres of track and could have caused the train to plunge into the river.


"It's a passenger train primarily utilised by Serbs," said UN police spokesman Larry Miller. "But the train never made it to the bridge."


Tensions are running high in the U N-run province since Western powers and Russia opted in November to delay until 2007 a decision on the 90 per cent Albanian majority's demand for independence.


The United Nations, which has run the territory since Nato bombs drove out Serb forces in 1999, urged patience on Friday following reports of armed men patrolling roads in the west.


Kosovo's 100,000 remaining Serbs, who want to remain part of Serbia, have been the targets of sporadic violence since 1999.


A Nato bombing campaign that year drove out Serb forces accused of ethnic cleansing and atrocities against Albanians in a two-year war with guerrillas.


At least half the pre-war Serb population fled a wave of revenge attacks. The United Nations says the rate of ethnically-motivated crime is falling, but any major unrest could derail U N-led talks to decide the fate of Kosovo.