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UN Expresses Shock Over Shooting Incident Involving UN Police in Kosovo - 2004-04-18

United Nations officials in Kosovo expressed shock over an unprecedented shoot-out between members of the U.N. police force in Kosovo, which killed two Americans and a Jordanian and injured at least 11 others. The incident took place in the northern town of Kosovska Mitrovica.

The United Nations says international police officers serving at the U.N. mission in Kosovo exchanged gunfire with each other in a prison compound in the ethnically divided town of Kosovska Mitrovica.

At least two U.S. police officers and a Jordanian were killed. Several others have been wounded in the shooting.

In a statement, the U.N. claims that the gunfire erupted between police officers at the prison. Witnesses told reporters that the first ever shoot-out between U.N. forces in five years of peace-keeping in the region lasted for about 10 minutes.

No prisoners of the U.N. correctional facility, where the shooting occurred, were reportedly involved in the incident.

News reports have quoted unnamed sources who say that the gunfire began after a quarrel between U.N. personnel over the United States' role in Iraq.

Harri Holkeri, who heads the United Nations Interim Mission in Kosovo, said he is "deeply shocked and dismayed" at what he calls "the unfortunate death of dedicated professionals." He says the mission has "come such a great distance to help Kosovo on its road to future."

U.N. Police Commissioner Stefan Feller has said he is "saddened at this tragic incident" and has promised a thorough investigation.

The incident comes at a difficult time for the United Nations, which administers the troubled province backed by a NATO-led military mission.

Last month at least 19 people died in ethnic fighting between ethnic Albanians and Serbs which began in Kosovska Mitrovica, the very site of Saturday's gunfire between U.N. personnel.

Kosovo became a U.N. protectorate in 1999, after NATO launched a 78-day air war to stop former President Slobodan Milosevic from cracking down on ethnic Albanians seeking independence.