Macedonian Aid Convoy Under Fire from Albanian Gunmen
Macedonian police and aid workers were trapped Friday under fire from suspected ethnic Albanian guerrillas near the Kosovo border, a day after Skopje drove the rebels from their nearby stronghold of Tanusevci.
One convoy driver was killed late Thursday when the attackers opened fire with mortars, rockets and automatic weapons, and the convoy remained pinned down overnight some seven kilometers (four miles) south of the Kosovo border.
The 15-vehicle convoy was carrying 30 people, most of them Macedonian police officers -- including senior officials -- and also several reporters.
The attack took place near the convoy's destination, the ethnic Albanian-dominated village of Gosinci.
Police said the convoy had come under mortar fire from Brest, a neighboring village which lies a short distance from the border with Kosovo. Police escorting the convoy returned fire.
Witnesses said a jeep in the convoy was hit by a shell, killing the driver.
Other witnesses said that at least one more person was injured in a heavy shooting that they said was an ambush by ethnic Albanian rebels of the self-proclaimed National Liberation Army (UCK), which has been clashing with Macedonian forces in the area over the past few weeks.
Police reinforcements arrived in the area late Thursday and managed to evacuate the people from the ambush zone. They were staying put in a location deemed to be safe, but still could not leave the area.
Police sources estimated that the UCK guerrillas might have been trying to gain full control of the villages of Brest and Malino, just near Gosinci, after Macedonian forces earlier Thursday drove the rebels from their main mountain stronghold of Tanusevci.
Women and children from Gosinci and nearby villages have already fled their homes, fearing further fighting.
US troops of the Kosovo peacekeeping force KFOR on Thursday deployed in Tanusevci, which lies on the mountainous border with Kosovo, after the Macedonians had driven the rebels out -- SKOPJE (AFP)
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