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Evidence suggests ethnic cleansing by Albanians

Two months after NATO bombs cut short Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's systematic effort to purge Kosovo of ethnic Albanians, mounting evidence suggests some Albanians are engaged in an "ethnic cleansing" campaign of their own _ in this case, with the province's remaining Serbs as victims.

Initially, the widespread slayings of Serbs, and the torching of their homes and churches, were seen as individual acts of revenge for atrocities carried out by Serbian troops during the war _ crimes that claimed the lives of an estimated 10,000 ethnic Albanians. But as the days pass since NATO-led troops occupied Kosovo on June 12, and the crimes against Serbs continue, patterns in the violence are beginning to emerge:

Here in the capital, "a disturbing pattern has arisen in the method of intimidation used against Serbs still in the city," the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees has found. "First, a warning letter is received ordering them to leave their homes, then the threat is delivered in person, followed a few days later by physical assault, in some cases even murder."

Dozens of Serbs have been slain execution-style in Pristina, military police have said. Evidence shows that the victims commonly were bound at the wrists and made to kneel on the ground before being shot in the head. Many were blindfolded.

In dozens of Serbian villages throughout Kosovo, Serbs have fled after repeated threats and acts of violence, only to have their villages burned behind them.

At least 40 Serbian churches across the province have been vandalized and burned, Serbian Orthodox Church officials say. Many were then bombed.

"It's not that we think, we simply know it's organized activity, and systematically performed," Bishop Artemije, head of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo, said in an interview.

At separate news conferences last week, U.N. refugee agency spokesman Ron Redmond and U.S. Army Gen. John Craddock said they believe there are organized forces behind the anti-Serb violence.

"It's more than just neighbors getting upset at each other," said Craddock, who commanded U.S. troops in Kosovo until his departure last week.

The U.N. refugee agency estimates that there are only between 1,000 and 2,000 Serbs remaining in Pristina, down from the 27,000 who were counted in the 1991 census. The agency found that many of those who remain are among the most vulnerable to attack: the elderly, the disabled and those without families.

"The freedom of movement of Serbs in the city is virtually nonexistent, basically the same situation as Albanians faced here just a few months ago," Redmond said.

Unlike U.N. and KFOR officials, Artemije and other church officials did not hesitate to lay blame for the plight of the Serbs. He said that if the Kosovo Liberation Army and its political leader, Hashim Thaci, are not behind the attacks, they at least have the power to stop them.

Kosovo's U.N. administrator, in comments published Saturday, criticized the KLA.

"In the future, I will not allow the homes of 10 or 15 Serbs to be burned down every night even if that means confrontation with the KLA," Bernard Kouchner told the Athens daily Eleftherotypia.

"I have told Thaci that my patience has run out. If the Serbs leave Kosovo, we will have lost." Thaci denies KLA involvement.

Meanwhile, in comments published Saturday, the newly named vice premier in Yugoslavia _ appointed as part of a government reshuffle Thursday meant to strengthen Milosevic _ called for Milosevic's resignation.

Ultranationalist Tomislav Nikolic was quoted in an interview with the German Der Spiegel magazine as saying Milosevic should resign "not because the West demands it, but rather because he capitulated in Kosovo."

_ Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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