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UN Launches Month-Long Weapons Amnesty in Kosovo - 2003-09-01

The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Kosovo has launched a month-long weapons amnesty in its third attempt to rid the volatile region of illegal firearms.

The top U.N. official for the region, Herri Holkeri, asked residents to turn in unregistered firearms to avoid prosecution and fines. Mr. Holkeri says taking guns and grenades out of the hands of citizens will decrease violence and improve domestic security.

Conviction for possessing illegal weapons normally carries a sentence of up to eight years in prison or fines of more than $7,000.

Under the amnesty, the third since the United Nations and NATO took control of the province in 1999, citizens may turn in weapons with no questions asked. A recent U.N. survey concluded that some 500,000 illegal firearms, mostly rifles and small arms, are in Kosovo.

Meanwhile, a United Nations official says a Serb man was killed and four others injured in an explosion Sunday in eastern Kosovo.

The official, Andrea Angeli, says an explosive device went off outside a shop in the village of Cernica, about 35 kilometers east of the provincial capital, Pristina.

U.N. police say they believe the device was a hand grenade. The motive for the attack was not immediately known. Kosovo is a province of Serbia but has a predominantly ethnic Albanian majority.

The United Nations has administered Kosovo since 1999, when NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia in response to the Kosovo crisis forced Serb-led Yugoslav armed forces out of the province.