U.S. Troops Trade Shots With Gunmen in Kosovo
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 7, 2001 U.S. troops traded fire today with gunmen near the border town of Mijak, Kosovo, and wounded two, DoD officials said. No American soldiers were hurt in the exchange.
A group of U.S. soldiers responded with small-arms fire to threatening maneuvers by four armed men, DoD officials said. Three men were captured and one escaped.
About 150 U.S. soldiers on peacekeeping duty in Kosovo are patrolling the Serbian province's border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia for Albanian guerrilla forces seeking to destabilize the region, DoD officials said.
Pentagon spokesman Navy Rear Adm. Craig Quigley had told reporters in an afternoon briefing March 6 that American troops had moved closer to the Kosovo-FYROM border and "increased their visibility, increased the activity of their surveillance patrols along the border there, all with the goal of trying to restore a sense of calm and to stop the actions by the extremists."
The area has experienced week-long violence. Insurgents killed three Macedonian soldiers in border fighting over the weekend, according to press reports. Officials noted that ethnic Albanians comprise about a quarter of Macedonia's 2 million population and some 90 percent of Kosovo's.
U.N. peacekeeping forces have been stationed in the Kosovo region for the past few years. FYROM officials asked NATO to help quell the unrest, which has been occurring in a rugged, mountainous area.
"It is not a 'tight' border by anyone's description," Quigley said. U.S. forces would remain on the Kosovo side, he said. American forces have arrested some insurgents and uncovered arms caches in recent days, according to news reports.