CEOL - Kouchner Holds Memorial To Condemn Kosovo Mob Killing

PRISTINA, Dec 2, 1999 -- (AFP) The head of the U.N. administration in Kosovo, Bernard Kouchner, laid a wreath Wednesday at the central Pristina site where a mob murdered an elderly Serb and forced firecrackers into the mouths of his wife and mother-in-law.

Some 2,000 people surrounded the Serbs' car late Sunday as ethnic Albanians celebrated their Flag Day, preventing police from reaching the scene of the crime, officials at the UN administration in Kosovo (UNMIK) said.

The 62-year-old Serbian man, a professor at Pristina university, was driving his ailing mother-in-law to the hospital when their car was halted by a crowd in one of Pristina's central streets, overturned and set ablaze.

The three were pulled from the vehicle and the man was shot dead while his companions were severely assaulted.

Police reports said that members of the crowd forced firecrackers into the mouths of the two elderly women, an UNMIK official said.

The women are now in the hospital in the southern Serbian town of Nis and will not be able to talk for several days, said UNMIK spokeswoman Daniela Rozgonova.

The mother-in-law had been attacked a month or so before for being a Serb, she added.

Kouchner, who spoke in the name of the Kosovo Transitional Council which brings together local political leaders and UNMIK, called on "all people of Kosovo to have tolerance for each other and thus lay the foundations of for ... a genuine multi-ethnic society.

He laid a wreath in the center of the road, where charred pieces of metal marked the scene of the attack, which he condemned as a "grave misuse of the liberty awarded to the people of Kosovo by UNMIK and KFOR," the international peacekeeping force.

Thousands of ethnic Albanians thronged the streets of Kosovo Sunday to celebrate Albanian independence in 1912 and the first public appearance of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in 1997.

Ethnic murders are commonplace in the Serbian province in the aftermath of some 18 months of fighting which ended when NATO drove Serbian forces out of Kosovo in June.

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