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NATO to Send Additional Troops to Kosovo Following Ethnic Clashes - 2004-03-18

NATO is sending about 350 extra troops to Kosovo to help restore order after ethnic clashes in which at least 22 people died and hundreds were injured. Britain says it is also sending troops to the province, where clashes continue.

NATO's top decision-making body, the North Atlantic Council, condemned the violence, and called on leaders in the region to take concrete action to restore peace. NATO said sending reinforcements shows the alliance's determination to provide security for all Kosovars, regardless of their ethnic identity.

Clashes between ethnic Albanians and Serbs were reported in a number of towns where the violence ranged from street fighting to riots, and even gun battles. Dozens of U.N. special police and some NATO peacekeepers were hurt in the clashes.

In the capital, Pristina, burned out cars littered the streets, and authorities said hundreds of Serbs were evacuated from their homes. In another measure, commercial flights to Kosovo were suspended.

Authorities say the unrest began in the ethnically-divided city of Kosovska Mitrovica, after ethnic Albanians blamed Serbs for the drowning of two of Albanian children, and went on a rampage. The violence is said to be the worst since NATO waged an air war in 1999 to drive Yugoslav troops out of the ethnic Albanian-majority province.

The NATO reinforcements will add to the more than 18,000 NATO peacekeepers who are already in Kosovo.

Meanwhile, in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia-Montenegro, there were protests Wednesday and Thursday in reaction to the Kosovo violence. Kosovo is administered by the United Nations but remains part of Serbia-Montenegro.