Monday, March 28, 2005

Two elderly Serbs beaten up in Kosovo

An elderly Serb couple were assaulted and severely injured on Monday by unknown attackers in their village in the northwest of Kosovo, police and medical sources in Kosovo said.

The Serbian agency SRNA said the attackers were "a gang of Albanians", though there was no independent confirmation. Attacks on minority Serbs by ethnic Albanians - and vice versa - have triggered cycles of revenge in the past.

The victims were identified as Nedeljko and Nevenka Vucic, aged 71 and 73. They were taken to a Serb hospital on the northern side of the divided city of Kosovska Mitrovica.

"Nedeljko had concussion and injuries caused by sharp and blunt objects. His head was severely injured, his ribs were broken. Surgery was necessary for his lungs," doctor Aleksandar Bozovic told Reuters.

"His right ear was cut off and he was stabbed with a metal object in the spine," Bozovic said.

"Nevenka has several cuts on her head and severe injuries to the chest caused by stabs and blows. Her life is endangered. She will undergo further surgery at 2 p.m.," he added.

There was no independent account of the injuries sustained by the couple.

Monday's attack coincided with a visit to Belgrade by Kosovo U.N. governor Soren Jessen-Petersen to encourage dialogue between Serbs and Albanians on Kosovo's future. Serbia says the Albanian demand for independence is out of the question.

Serbia's independent Beta agency said the attack took place in the ethnically mixed village of Crkolez, in Istok municipality. The old couple had stayed on alone after all four of their children left to find refuge in central Serbia.

The U.N. has run Kosovo as a de facto protectorate since mid 1999, when Serbian security forces were expelled after 11 weeks of NATO bombing to compel an end to what the alliance said was a ruthless war against Kosovo Albanian guerrillas.

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