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Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Pristina, 21 Nov. (AKI) - An explosive device went off early on Tuesday morning in a Serbian elementary school in the central Kosovo village of Ropotovo, but there were no casualties, police said. Kosovo police spokesman Veton Elsani said the device was placed in a storage cupboard. Fortunately, the classroom, which can hold up to 200 pupils, was empty, because the teacher didn’t show up for the classes and, apart from material damage, there were no injuries, he said.

“By chance, due to the teacher’s absence, the fifth grade classroom in which the explosion took place was empty and the tragedy was avoided,” said a school official Zivorad Tomic. He said the school is usually attended by 450 ethnic Serb pupils, but all classes were later cancelled.

Violent incidents have lately increased in the breakaway Kosovo province, where majority ethnic Albanians demand independence, as the international community nears a decision on the final status of Kosovo. The province, in which ethnic Albanians outnumber the remaining Serbs by 17 to one, has been under United Nations control since 1999, but Belgrade opposes independence and reaffirmed Serbia's sovreignty over the area in its new constitution, approved recently.

Violence flared in the province when the Kosovo Liberation Army, supported by ethnic Albanians, came out in open rebellion against Serbian rule in the mid-1990s, sparking a brutal Yugoslav military crackdown.

Serbian forces began an 'ethnic cleansing' campaign against up to half of Kosovo's ethnic Albanians in 1999 triggering a NATO bombing campaign that drove Serb forces from the province. Some 800,000 people fled to Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro and approximately 10,000 died in the conflict.

Over 200,000 Serbs have fled Kosovo since it was put under UN control and some 3,000 have been killed or listed as missing, according to the International Red Cross. It believes about 1,500 have been murdered.

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