Serb returnee killed in central Kosovo

Published on June 20, 2006, Associated Press

Category: Violence Against Christian Serbs and Their Holy Places

By: GARENTINA KRAJA

A Serb returnee was found shot dead inside his house in a central Kosovo town Tuesday, police and Serb officials said.

The 68 year-old Serb, identified as Dragan Popovic, was discovered by police after the officers received a report of a body found in a house in the town of Klina, 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of Kosovo's capital, Pristina, Kosovo's police said in a statement.

Police and Serbian sources told the Associated Press that Popovic was shot in the neck and discovered dead by his neighbor early Tuesday in his house.

He was last seen late Monday returning to his home from a shop. Nothing was touched in the house, the Serb officials said.

An investigating team from the main police headquarters, consisting of local and U.N. police officers, were dispatched to the scene to conduct an investigation. Police have no suspects and have not yet established a motive for the apparent killing.

Several Serbs have returned to Klina recently, after fleeing the aftermath of the province's 1998-1999 war fearing attacks by ethnic Albanian extremists seeking to revenge for thousands of dead following Serb forces crackdown in Kosovo.

Though Kosovo's leadership has invited Serbs to come back to their original homes in the province, some ethnic Albanians remain hostile to their return.

Separately, vandals damaged sixteen graveside monuments in the Serb village of Staro Gracko, 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of the province's capital, Pristina, police said.

A Serb government-run center in Kosovo, quoting local Serb representatives, said a group got into the cemetery early Tuesday and vandalized the monuments, leaving behind broken crosses, benches and pots for flowers and candles.

Kosovo has been run by a United Nations mission since 1999, when a NATO air war halted Serb forces' crackdown on independence-seeking ethnic Albanians.

U.N.-brokered talks are under way to determine whether Kosovo will become an independent state, as the ethnic Albanians demand, or remain attached to Serbia, as the province's minority Serbs insist.


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