Macedonia: US Troops Shoot Albanian Rebels in Border Clash ; Tension Mounts in Frontier Area as `Liberation Army' Guerrillas Use Kosovo as Safe Haven to Launch Attacks on Neighbouring Nation
Huggler, Justin, The Independent (London, England)
TWO MEN believed to be members of a rebel army that occupied a village in Macedonia were wounded in a firefight with an American patrol yesterday in the first armed clash between the rebels and the international force in Kosovo (K-For).
Hours after the skirmish, three Yugoslav soldiers were killed when their vehicle hit a landmine near the town of Presevo in a buffer zone along the Serbian side of the Kosovo boundary, touching the Macedonian border. The zone is used by Albanian guerrillas as a base to attack Serb forces.
The US troops had stumbled upon five or six rebels near the village of Mijak, and opened fire when the men pointed weapons at them. Most of the guerrillas escaped but the two casualties are in hospital. The K-For troops were unscathed.
Beyond the thick mist that veils most of these desolate, snow- shrouded hills, the Albanian rebels are still occupying the Macedonian border village of Tanusevci. American soldiers and their armoured cars blockade the border and they vow to detain anyone moving in or out of Kosovo. But out there, in the mist, the gunmen slip by, unseen and unheard.
Nuri Arifi passes every day. We found him preparing for the journey. He must get past the American cordon, cross a border littered with landmines left from the Serbian offensive on Kosovo, and traverse woodlands where there are Macedonian patrols.
Mr Arifi is a refugee from Tanusevci, who fled to the Kosovo village of Debelde with his family when the fighting started. But every day he goes back to check on his property. His brothers, he says, have joined the National Liberation Army, the rebels who have seized Tanusevci. "And, sooner or later, I will have to go back and fight too," he says. Mr Arifi has a weapon in Tanusevci and he says he is ready to use it against the Macedonians.
Most of the refugees deny there is an official National Liberation Army. The standard line seems to be: "The Macedonian army attacked without provocation, and the villagers are only defending themselves."
Mr Arifi says the Tanusevci rebellion began after a young neighbour, Musafer Xhaferi, was shot dead by a Macedonian patrol on 16 February while he was gathering wood outside the village. Then, say villagers, mysterious men in black uniforms arrived and …
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Publication information: Article title: Macedonia: US Troops Shoot Albanian Rebels in Border Clash ; Tension Mounts in Frontier Area as `Liberation Army' Guerrillas Use Kosovo as Safe Haven to Launch Attacks on Neighbouring Nation. Contributors: Huggler, Justin - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: March 8, 2001. Page number: 14. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.