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Monday, August 9, 1999 Published at 15:47 GMT 16:47 UK

World: Europe

Soldier hurt in Kosovo clash

The soldier was injured as ethnic Albanians attempted to force their way across a bridge

A French soldier serving with the Nato-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo has been seriously hurt in fresh clashes with Kosovo Albanians in the divided northern town of Mitrovica.

The soldier, who is being treated for head injuries, was hurt when several hundred Kosovo Albanians tried to force their way across a bridge, saying they wanted to visit their homes in the predominantly Serb part of the town.

Kosovo: Special Report
The protesters were pushed back by the peacekeeping troops, who then closed the bridge with barbed wire.

The latest outbreak of violence came amid reports that 59 people had been arrested and several arms caches had been seized by K-For soldiers in Pristina.

K-For spokesman Major Roland Lavoie said the arrests in Pristina were in connection with shootings, grenade attacks, caches or possession of war weapons and other threats to public order.

A 10-year-old girl was seriously injured in a grenade attack in the city on Sunday night.

[ image: There was anger as ethnic Albanians tried to reach the Serb area of Mitrovica]
There was anger as ethnic Albanians tried to reach the Serb area of Mitrovica
The confrontation in Mitrovica was the third in three days between French peacekeepers and Kosovo Albanians in the town, which is home to the largest remaining Serb community in Kosovo.

Bertand Bonneau, commander of French K-For troops in Mitrovica, said the trouble flared when a group of around 50 people, most of them teenagers, tried to cross the bridge.

He said: "We asked them to go back and they responded by pushing and shoving, so we forced them back a few metres away from the bridge in order to control the crowd."

New police force starts work

The trouble in Mitrovica comes just days after the first international police officers started work in Kosovo.

More than 200 officers from at least 10 countries started work alongside a specially-recruited multi-ethnic force of 5,000 on Saturday.

Military chiefs from the Kosovo peacekeeping force and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) are reported to have held private talks on the clashes on Monday morning.

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