Drunk Serb militant banned from Mitrovica

PRISTINA, Jul 27, 2000 -- (AFP) A drunken member of a Serbian self-defense force has been banned from the divided Kosovo town of Kosovska Mitrovica after kicking a French soldier, a UN spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Susan Manuel told a news conference in Pristina that the man was a member of the so-called Bridge Watchers. A spokesman for the KFOR peacekeeping force said he had been banned from the flashpoint town for two weeks.

The Serb was arrested at 10:45 a.m. (0845 GMT) Tuesday by soldiers of the French-led KFOR brigade based in Mitrovica after he lashed out during a routine identity check, Colonel Henry Aussavy said.

He was taken to a UN police station following his arrest, the colonel said.

Following the arrest the brigade commander, General Jean-Louis Sublet, invoked a rarely used power granted under the UN regulations governing the international administration of Kosovo and expelled the Serb from the town.

"It's a very rare incident, a point had to be made," said Aussavy.

"It was an isolated case, without importance. The person was not suspected of carrying out other attacks against KFOR," he said.

KFOR said that if the Serb was spotted in Mitrovica in the next two weeks he would be arrested and imprisoned.

A United Nations spokeswoman confirmed that under a UN regulation passed on August 12 last year, entitled "On the prevention of access to individuals to secure public peace and order," KFOR commanders could ban people from certain areas.

Mitrovica is often the scene of violence between locals and peacekeepers and between the rival Serbian and ethnic Albanian communities.

On Tuesday two more Serbs were arrested on suspicion of threatening an Albanian woman and demanding she leave her apartment in the Serbian-majority northern sector of the town, UN police said.

Later the same day the residence of a UN police officer was burgled, the latest in a series of attacks on police property since Monday last week, the police report added.

The Bridge Watchers are a Serbian self-defense force loyal to the Mitrovica branch of the Serbian National Council, run in turn by local strongman Oliver Ivanovic.

They monitor people coming across the bridge over the river Ibar which separates the Serbian-majority north of the town from the Albanian south and are reported to have been involved in intimidation and violence against ethnic Albanians.

Original article