Kosovo Serbs protest arrest of their compatriots

Hundreds of Kosovo Serbs blocked the road in central Kosovo on Monday, protesting the arrest of four of their compatriots on war crimes charges, police said.

The vehicle traffic was halted through the mainly Serb town of Gracanica, just outside Kosovo's capital, Pristina, as families of those arrested and others protested police move, police spokesman Refki Morina said.

Police and NATO-led peacekeepers on Sunday arrested four Serbs in Gracanica suspected of involvement in the slayings of ethnic Albanians during the province's war, according to the AP.

A U.N. statement said the four suspected war criminals were arrested for their alleged participation in a number of murders in the area of Lipljan, a central Kosovo town, in April 1999. The four, including three Serb brothers and their uncle, are wanted in several wartime killings of ethnic Albanians.

During the raid, police also found several weapons, including a number of machine guns, rifles, hand guns, knives and bayonets and a sizable quantity of ammunition. The operation was still ongoing, a police statement said.

An estimated 10,000 ethnic Albanians were killed in the crackdown by Serb forces against ethnic Albanian separatists during the 1998-1999 war.

The conflict ended after NATO pushed Serb troops out and forced former autocratic ruler Slobodan Milosevic to relinquish control of Kosovo.

Since then, Kosovo has remained officially part of Serbia-Montenegro, the successor state to Yugoslavia, but is administered by the U.N. mission and patrolled by a NATO-led peacekeeping force. Negotiations on its final status are expected to begin by the end of the year.

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