Ethnic Albanians Thursday welcomed their exiled government's proposal for villages in Kosovo to defend themselves against Serb forces - a sign public sentiment is turning increasingly in favor of fighting for independence.
The growing support for militants in the secessionist province of southern Serbia comes amid a Serb campaign that has driven some 60,000 people from their homes since March. More than 300 people have died in clashes between Serbs and militants.In the latest evidence the crackdown has not silenced the Kosovo Liberation Army, Serb sources reported two incidents Thursday involving actions by the separatist guerrillas.
The state-run Tanjug news agency accused militants of attacking two Serb villages 30 miles west of the provincial capital Pristina early Thursday. The villagers fired back and there were no casualties, Tanjug said.
Also, the pro-Serb Media Center reported that a Yugoslav army border patrol fired on a group of armed Albanians trying to enter Kosovo from Macedonia.
The Kosovo Liberation Army has gained in strength and popularity this year despite Yugoslavia's campaign to crush resistance to its rule.
Ethnic Albanian political leaders, who for years have sought independence through diplomatic means, now are making overtures to the KLA out of desperation.
After a seven-hour meeting Wednesday in Tirana, Albania, with representatives of five Kosovo political parties, the Kosovo Albanians' self-described government-in-exile proposed setting up self-resistance headquarters in villages across the battered province.
The move is an acknowledgment that the pacifist policies of ethnic Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova have failed.
Bujar Bukoshi, the head of the exiled government, admitted late Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press that the KLA is "now a reality and a challenge" that has to be faced.
Many Pristina politicians and residents quickly endorsed the measure.
Baton Haxhiu, an ethnic Albanian journalist, said Kosovo Albanians may have no choice but to accept the proposal for more to take up arms.